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Central Freight Lines, Inc. v. Amazon Fulfillment Services

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

July 15, 2019





         Before the court are: (1) Plaintiff Central Freight Lines, Inc.'s (“Central Freight”) motion to seal documents related to its motion for summary judgment (MTS 1 (Dkt. # 146)); (2) Defendant Amazon Fulfillment Services's (“AFS”) motion to seal documents related to its summary judgment response (MTS 2 (Dkt. # 161)); (3) Central Freight's motion to seal documents related to its summary judgment reply (MTS 3 (Dkt. # 169)); and (4) AFS's motion to seal portions of its motion for partial summary judgment (MTS 4 (Dkt. # 177)). The parties have filed responses to some of the motions. (Resp. 1 (Dkt. # 150); Resp. 3 (Dkt. # 173); Resp. 4 (Dkt. # 181).) The court has considered the motions, the parties' submissions concerning the motions, the relevant portions of the record, and the applicable law. Being fully advised, [1] the court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Central Freight's first motion to seal and GRANTS the parties' remaining motions to seal as described herein.


         The court detailed this case's factual and procedural background in its prior orders. (See 7/10/17 Order (Dkt. # 47) at 2-4; 11/07/17 Order (Dkt. # 57) at 2-6; 3/11/19 Order (Dkt. # 135) at 2-4.) Thus, in this order, the court recounts only the facts and procedural history salient to the instant motions.

         This case arises from a contract dispute between Central Freight, a freight carrier, and AFS. (See generally FAC (Dkt. # 139).) Central Freight provided shipping services to AFS pursuant to a Transportation Agreement (“the Agreement”) executed on July 7, 2011. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14, Ex. A (“Agreement”).) In mid-2016, AFS audited Central Freight's services and concluded that it had overpaid Central Freight under the Agreement. (FAC ¶¶ 17-20; see id., Ex. B (“Demand Letter”).) Central Freight disputes AFS's contentions, arguing that its billing was consistent with the parties' oral modification to the // Agreement and that AFS improperly attempted to “claw back” money from Central Freight. (See FAC ¶¶ 3-5.)

         On April 11, 2019, Central Freight moved for summary judgment against AFS. (CF MSJ (Dkt. # 145).) On June 10, 2019, AFS moved for partial summary judgment against Central Freight. (AFS MSJ (Dkt. # 174).) In connection with these motions for summary judgment, the parties brought the motions to seal that are at issue in this order. The court will address the motions to seal in turn.

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Legal Standard

         When deciding a motion to seal, courts “start with a strong presumption in favor of access to court records.” Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122, 1135 (9th Cir. 2003) (citing Hagestad v. Tragesser, 49 F.3d 1430, 1434 (9th Cir. 1995)). This presumption, however, “is not absolute and can be overridden given sufficiently compelling reasons for doing so.” Foltz, 331 F.3d at 1135 (citing San Jose Mercury News, Inc. v. U.S. Dist. Ct. N. Dist. (San Jose), 187 F.3d 1096, 1102 (9th Cir. 1999)). The standard for determining whether to seal a record depends on the filing that the sealed record is attached to. See Foltz, 331 F.3d at 1136-37. Because the sealed documents at issue here are attached to motions that are “more than tangentially related to the merits of [this] case, ” the court applies the compelling reasons standard to determine if sealing is appropriate. See Ctr. for Auto Safety v. Chrysler Grp., 809 F.3d 1092, 1098-102 (9th Cir. 2016).

         Under the compelling reasons standard, the party seeking to seal a judicial record bears the burden of showing that “compelling reasons supported by specific factual findings . . . outweigh the general history of access and the public policies favoring disclosure.” Kamakana v. City & Cty. of Honolulu, 447 F.3d at 1178-79 (internal citations omitted). A failure to meet that burden means that the record will be filed in public. Id. at 1182. If a court decides to seal a record, it must “base its decision on a compelling reason and articulate the factual basis for its ruling.” Id. at 1179 (quoting Hagestad, 49 F.3d at 1434).

         “In general, ‘compelling reasons' sufficient to outweigh the public's interest in disclosure and justify sealing court records exist when such ‘court files might have become a vehicle for improper purposes,' such as the use of records to . . . release trade secrets.” Kamakana, 447 F.3d at 1179 (quoting Nixon v. Warner Commc'ns, Inc., 435 U.S. 589, 598 (1978)). The final determination of what constitutes a compelling reason is “best left to the sound discretion of the trial court.” Nixon, 435 U.S. at 599.

         In addition, in the Western District of Washington, parties seeking to file documents under seal must follow the procedure laid out in Local Rule 5(g). See Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 5(g). Pursuant to Local Rule 5(g), a party filing a motion to seal must include “a certification that the party has met and conferred with all other parties in an attempt to reach agreement on the need to file the document[s] under seal.” Id. LCR 5(g)(3)(A). The party seeking to seal the documents must also explain the bases for requiring the relief. Id. LCR 5(g)(3)(B).

         B. ...

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