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Monday, September 23, 2019

Court says Florida man injured in truck accident can obtain electronic data from the vehicle


By Marian Johns | May 31, 2019

OCALA – The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida recently ruled that data from an electronic control module in a freight transport company's vehicle that was involved in an accident that injured a Florida man can be used in a personal injury lawsuit. 

In the April 29 decision, U.S. Magistrate Judge Philip Lammens agreed with plaintiff Victor Torres-Torres who petitioned the court to overrule the objection of defendants KW International Inc. (KW) and Sung II Lee to a request to produce the data taken from the 18-wheeler vehicle driven by Lee, an employee of KW, that was involved in the accident. 

The case stems from an accident caused by Lee who was driving the truck for KW that resulted in injuries to the plaintiff who was a passenger in the vehicle struck by Lee, court filings said. Torres-Torres filed suit against KW and Lee claiming negligence and strict liability and seeking damages for bodily injury, pain and suffering and related losses. 

Although KW and Lee admitted negligence, they opposed the request for the data from the electronic control module (ECM) that was downloaded from the truck Lee was driving, court filings said. KW and Lee argued that the ECM data "is not relevant based on its recent admission of liability." The defendants also claimed the work product privilege, the "data is not discoverable absent a showing of undue hardship" and stated the plaintiff did not disclose an expert regarding the matter. 

The court disagreed with Lammens concluding "The court is unpersuaded that work product attaches to data generated through the truck’s electronic systems in the normal course of operation." Lammens also stated that the plaintiff has not asked for an "interpretation of the data."  He also disagreed with the defendant's argument that the data is protected from discovery because they are the only ones who have  the "special equipment" needed get the data from the ECM .

"The court is satisfied that, given the circumstances presented in this case, the data from the ECM is discoverable as relevant and proportional to the needs of the case," Lammens said in the ruling. 

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