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Alabama court sides with Schnitzer

Oct 02, 2013 | 01:18 PM | Lisa Gordon

Tags  metals recycling, Schnitzer Steel Industries, Alabama Supreme Court, post-accident investigation report, Jefferson Circuit Court, Lisa Gordon

PITTSBURGH — The Alabama Supreme Court has sided with Schnitzer Steel Industries Inc. regarding a post-accident investigation report at one of its subsidiaries.

The court ruled that not all company information gathered in an accident investigation should be made available to the other side in litigation matters.

The decision surrounds a 2008 accident in which an employee suffered an amputation as a result of an injury while working on the job at a Schnitzer Southeast LLC metals recycling facility in Birmingham, Ala.

After the injured employee filed a workman’s compensation claim, Schnitzer drafted a confidential post-accident report, which it believed was protected information that could be used in preparing to litigate a legal matter it expected to arise from the incident.

The Jefferson Circuit Court had ordered Schnitzer to produce the post-accident, along with records of safety inspections. But Schnitzer objected to the submission of the report, which it believed could augment its case. These reports aren’t generated in every incident that occurs in the normal course of business.

The state Supreme Court agreed that the report is protected from discovery. "We hold that the trial court exceeded its discretion by ordering Schnitzer Steel to produce the report, which was prepared in reasonable anticipation of litigation" because it was prepared to defend the company in case of a lawsuit, it ruled.

The ruling directs the Jefferson Circuit Court trial court to vacate its order granting the motion to compel discovery of the report and to enter an order denying that motion.

Schnitzer said the case is still pending in the court system, and as such had no comment on the matter.

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