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Brave Law Firm, LLC v. Truck Accident Lawyers Group, Inc.
Case Number: 6:127-CV-1156
Judge: Eric F. Melgren
Court: United States District Court for the District of Kansas (Sedgwick County)
Defendant's Attorney: Jason S. Stitt and Lyndon W. Vix
Description: Wichita, Kansas intellectual property lawyer represented Plaintiff which sued defendant on a trademark infringement (Lanham Act) violation theory.
Brave and Pistotnik are competing personal-injury law firms in Kansas. Brave sued Pistotnik for false advertising and unfair competition under the Lanham Act, as well as for violations of Kansas law. It alleged that certain print, video, and Internet advertisements stating that Pistotnik had obtained large verdicts or settlements were false or misleading for various reasons.
As relevant to this appeal, Brave challenged Pistotnik's advertisements regarding a certain $9 million settlement (the Settlement). During the litigation, Brave "agreed to dismiss this lawsuit upon receipt of authenticated, admissible proof that the $9,000,000 . . . settlement advertised by all of the Defendants occurred as advertised." Id. Vol. 5 at 991. Pistotnik produced documentation showing that Bradley Pistotnik was counsel in a suit that resulted in a $9.5 million settlement for an injured man, his wife, and their two minor children. But Brave declined to dismiss the case, stating that the production did not satisfy its offer because the settlement involved four clients, rather than one.1
Pistotnik moved to enforce the settlement agreement, and Brave argued in response that Pistotnik's pleadings admitted that he had advertised the Settlement as belonging to one client. After holding an evidentiary hearing, the district court ruled in favor of Pistotnik. Rejecting Brave's position, it held that "[t]he settlement offer requires [Pistotnik] to submit proof of a settlement that is consistent with its advertisements. The Court can make its own conclusions regarding what the advertisements say, and it finds that they do not advertise obtaining a settlement for a single client." Aplt. App., Vol. 10 at 1754 n.11. The court therefore granted Pistotnik's motion to enforce the settlement agreement and dismissed the case.
Also relevant to this appeal, the magistrate judge entered a protective order preventing the parties from disclosing documents designated as confidential. Upon Brave's motion to compel, the magistrate judge required Pistotnik to produce documents concerning the Settlement, subject to the protective order. The documents showed the caption of the case underlying the Settlement, and with that information, Brave procured copies of the filings directly from that court. Pistotnik moved for a protective order requiring Brave to maintain the confidentiality of the former clients' identities and precluding it from publicly connecting the court records it obtained to the Settlement. Brave objected, asserting that the information it obtained from the originating court was public information.
Outcome: The magistrate judge granted Pistotnik's motion, holding:
In the abstract, plaintiff is correct that the policy in this district is not to protect from disclosure documents that are available to the public. But the issue here is more complex. As a matter of basic fairness, practicality, and respect for court orders, the court holds a litigant may not use confidential information that the court has specifically ruled subject to the court's protective order to obtain documents and then use those documents to publicize the very confidential information that the court protected.
Aplt. App. Vol. 7 at 1231 (footnote omitted). Noting that "the court . . . contemplated the identity of the parties to the underlying settlement would be protected," the magistrate judge stated, "[t]he court will not permit the plaintiff to
make an end-run around its orders." Id. at 1232. Brave filed Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a) objections with the district court, which affirmed the magistrate judge's order.
Brave now appeals from the decisions enforcing the settlement agreement and upholding the confidentiality order.
Brave's unopposed motion to seal Volume 6 of the Appellant's Appendix is granted. The district court's judgment is affirmed.
MOTION to Reopen Case by Defendants Brad Pistotnik Law, P.A., Bradley A. Pistotnik, Truck Accident Lawyers Group, Inc. (Attachments: # 1 Proposed Motion for Civil Contempt, # 2 Proposed Motion to Substitute Redacted Transcript)(Olmstead, Richard) (Entered: 03/21/2023)