Consumer groups win appeal to reveal Company Doe

Published on NewsOK Modified: April 16, 2014 at 6:09 pm •  Published: April 16, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — We soon could know the identity of the manufacturer — only known now as "Company Doe" — in a product safety case that has been linked to a child's death.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., sided with consumer groups Wednesday in their fight to reveal the identity of the manufacturer. The court reversed part of a lower court ruling and sent the case back to the district court in Maryland with instructions to "unseal the case in its entirety."

"We hold that the district court's sealing order violates the public's right of access under the First Amendment," Circuit Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote.

In 2011, an unidentified manufacturer went to court to stop the Consumer Product Safety Commission from publishing online a complaint about a product the company makes. It was the first legal challenge to the CPSC's federal database for safety complaints about products ranging from strollers and toys to household appliances.

The manufacturer argued that the complaint about the company was inaccurate and contained confusing statements, and therefore shouldn't be posted in the database. The company asked the court to keep proceedings under seal, allowing the manufacturer to use the pseudonym "Company Doe" — revealing the name of the company to the public would be the same as publishing the complaint in the database, the company said.

The district court ruled in favor of Company Doe, saying the complaint failed to describe a harm related to the use of the manufacturer's product.

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