Court refuses to require Dow to respond to subpoena regarding alleged contaminant
Joanne Branham sued Rohm and Hass Company in Pennsylvania, alleged that her deceased husband's rare brain cancer was caused by chemical pollution from the Defendant's nearby plant. Branham's attorneys subpoenaed several categories of Dow Chemical records through the Michigan Courts, seeking information regarding the alleged offending chemical. The family sought Dow's studies of the chemical's carcinogenicity, and information relating to Dow's communcations with the Defendant. Dow refused to honor the subpoena, raising multiple excuses.
Dow's objections boiled down to these three: Dow claimed it should not have to respond because it was in negotiations to buy the Defendant and should not have to disclose "sensitive" information it received in this process; Dow claimed that the Plaintiff family was improperly attempting to make it an expert against the Defendant; and lastly, Dow claimed that the plaintiff family had not exhausted its discovery rights in its suit against Rohm and Hass.
The local judge quashed the subpoena and refused to compel Dow to respond. On appeal, three prominent Republican judges upheld the lower court's decision, finding that the decision "did not lie outside the range of principled outcomes." Judges Kirsten Kelly, Hoekstra and Whitbeck concluded that the victim's family's effort to obtain information about the chemical's "cancer risks in general" need not be honored until the family proved it could not obtain the information through a "less burdensome" method. Corporations One. Consumers Zero.