News Brief

Grogan Successfully Quash Critical Subpoenas Related to Asbestos Litigation

May 13, 2011

Elizabeth Grogan (Associate-Albany) successfully moved to quash subpoenas directed to Wilson Elser’s client, a global engineering, construction and project management company. The client was served in connection with a case venued in California Superior Court. Maria Caruana (Of Counsel-San Francisco) provided support around the underlying California action, which involved claims of exposure to asbestos in connection with US military service, and California law.

The client serves as a government contractor operating facilities involved with highly confidential nuclear propulsion activities for the benefit of the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S Navy. The company retained Wilson Elser based upon prior experience representing other government contractors facing threat of disclosure of sensitive documentation and protected information.

The subpoenas in question sought broad categories of documents spanning decades which impacted highly technical and classified matters. Moreover, the subpoenas sought the production of potentially hundreds of thousands of documents. Any response would have resulted in the expenditure of significant monetary/manpower resources by both the client and agencies within the U.S. government. The client faced significant risk with respect to the compulsory release of sensitive materials controlled by federal regulations, including but not limited to the potential for violation of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, the Arms Export Control Act and the Atomic Energy Act, which impose civil and criminal sanctions and penalties.

Ms. Grogan was able to establish, on the firm’s client’s behalf, that the sole function of the facilities in question was to support the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program of the United States, and that any and all documents sought related to the work performed at/within those facilities were the property of the U.S. government. Further, they established that many categories of documents sought were controlled and/or precluded from disclosure based upon restrictions imposed by federal regulations.

Given the prevalence of allegations of naval exposure in asbestos litigation nationally, Wilson Elser’s client, along with other similarly situated government contractors, have been and are likely to continue to be targets for those seeking information similar to that sought in this action. The court's decision in this matter establishes significant precedent that will serve to benefit government contractors in future litigation.

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