Dow Chemical Company v. Allen – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

Dow Chemical Company v. Allen - Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In Dow Chemical Company v. Allen, 672 F.2d 1262 (7th Cir.1982) the Seventh Circuit considered whether research notes, reports, working papers, and raw data relating to ongoing animal toxicity studies were discoverable by Dow, which planned to use the information at hearings on the possible cancellation of its license for production of an herbicide.

The district court declined to enforce a subpoena issued against the researcher, on the grounds that the probative value of the information was quite limited at that stage of the case; Dow's need for the material was not overwhelming; and the subpoena was excessively burdensome. Id. at 1270-73.

In affirming this ruling, the Seventh Circuit examined each of these interests. It agreed that the research material lacked probative value because it could not be used by Dow to demonstrate the safety of the herbicide product at issue, and was not of great need to Dow because neither the researcher's testimony nor evidence from his studies would be introduced at the cancellation hearing. Id. at 1272.

On the other side of the protective order balancing test, the court identified several ways in which discovery would impose a significant burden on the researcher. Citing affidavits unchallenged by Dow, the court found that immediate public access to the requested material would deprive researchers of both the opportunity to have their results published by prestigious peer-reviewed journals, as well as the professional benefits accompanying this achievement. Id. at 1273-74.

It also determined that the researchers' interest in academic freedom would be chilled by having to disclose all of their underlying raw data and notes. Id. at 1276-77.

Since the harm to these interests that might be caused by immediate disclosure of the research material outweighed Dow's minimal relevance and need for the material, the court concluded that the district court had not erred in denying discovery.