At the very least, Honeywell has succeeded in raising a serious legal question regarding the application of section 6(b)(4)(B) to disclosure of discovery materials. This adequately satisfies the first prerequisite for obtaining preliminary injunctive relief since, as shown below, the balance of the equities favors Honeywell.
B. Irreparable Harm to Plaintiff
Honeywell contends that the Commission's release of the discovery materials without first complying with section 6(b)(1) will irreparably injure its corporate goodwill and reputation and its competitive position. In granting the preliminary injunction in GTE Sylvania, the Court recognized that "plaintiffs' reputations would suffer substantially from the Commission's release of misleading safety information." 404 F. Supp. 352, 373 (D.Del.1975) (footnote omitted); see Fountainhead Group, Inc. v. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 527 F. Supp. 294, 297-98 (N.D.N.Y.1981), vacated per stipulation, 559 F. Supp. 17 (N.D.N.Y.1982); Pierce & Stevens Chemical Corp. v. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 439 F. Supp. 247 (W.D.N.Y.1977), aff'd and remanded mem., 578 F.2d 1369 (2d Cir.1978), vacated 585 F.2d 1382 (2d Cir.1978). The Court also determined that once the information in question was disseminated, it would become powerless to restore the status quo if it ruled for plaintiff on the merits. GTE Sylvania, 404 F. Supp. at 373; see Dow Chemical, USA v. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 459 F. Supp. 378, 395 (W.D.La.1978); 11 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2148, at 434 (1973). Thus, a preliminary injunction in this type of a case preserves the Court's ability to grant effective relief.
More importantly, the Congress, by specifically authorizing a manufacturer to bring an action to enjoin disclosure, recognized the potential harm to a manufacturer if documents were released before the court made a determination on the merits. 15 U.S.C. § 2055(b)(3) (1982). If the status quo is not maintained in this case, the effectiveness of the congressionally mandated remedy will be emasculated.
C. Harm to Other Interested Parties
During argument on the motion for preliminary relief, the Court specifically requested that the Commission and defendant-intervenors specify the harm they would suffer if preliminary relief were granted. Counsel for the Commission admitted that it would suffer no harm if it were precluded from releasing the information pending a resolution of this issue on the merits. Granting of relief would have no impact on the Commission's ongoing adjudicatory proceeding against Honeywell.
Counsel for defendant-intervenors also revealed that they would not be harmed by granting relief except for the fact that release of the requested materials would be somewhat delayed. Defendant-intervenors maintain that the information is needed to assist in furtherance of their civil actions against Honeywell. Discovery in the defendant-intervenors' civil case should be managed by the court hearing the action. FOIA was not intended to be a discovery tool for civil plaintiffs. See Renegotiation Board v. Bannercraft Clothing Co., 415 U.S. 1, 24, 94 S. Ct. 1028, 1040, 39 L. Ed. 2d 123 (1974). Moreover, defendant-intervenors may still receive all the requested material.
D. Furtherance of the Public Interest
When it enacted the CPSA, the Congress recognized that to be effective the Commission would need broad powers to obtain, analyze, and disseminate information. Congress also realized that this broad grant of authority needed to be tempered with the information disclosure safeguards in section 6(b)(1). In this case, the public interest favors precluding release of potentially misleading information pending resolution of this case on the merits. If relief were denied, the Commission would obtain the result it ultimately seeks; i.e., release of the information without section 6(b)(1) preclearance. The Court would be powerless to grant effective relief if the Commission were not enjoined from disclosing the information. Since this is apparently a case of first impression, the public interest is furthered by maintaining the status quo until a full hearing is held and a determination is made on the merits.
Further, section 6 was intended to prevent disclosure of inaccurate or misleading information in circumstances that were unfair or not related to effectuating the purposes of the CPSA. By enjoining disclosure, the Court ensures that the consumers will not receive information that has not been safeguarded either by section 6(b)(1) or by the procedures attendant to the adjudicatory proceeding itself.
Since Honeywell has raised substantial legal questions regarding the applicability of section 6(b)(4)(B) and since the balance of the equities favors preserving the status quo pending a determination on the merits, the Court will enjoin the Commission from a public disclosure of materials related to discovery in In re Honeywell, CPSC Docket No. 83-2.
An Order consistent with this Memorandum Opinion will be entered on this date.