United States v. Reynolds

345 U.S. 1 (1953)


These claims arose from the crash of a B-29 aircraft. The aircraft had taken flight for the purpose of testing secret military equipment, and had four civilian observers on board, including Plaintiffs' (P) decedents. During flight, one of the plane's engines caught fire, the plane crashed, and killed six of the nine crew members and three of the civilians. P filed suit. During discovery, P moved for production of documents generated as part of the Air Force's investigation of the crash. The government moved to quash the motion, claiming that the documents were privileged. The lower court granted the motion. Later, the court received a letter from the Secretary of the Air Force and allowed a rehearing on the motion. At the rehearing, the government essentially claimed that the documents requested could not be produced without hampering national security. However, the government offered to produce the surviving crew members as witnesses. The court ordered the government to produce the documents for an in camera review. The government declined, and the court found that the facts on the issue of negligence would be taken as established in P's favor, and final judgment was entered for them. The government appeals from the Court of Appeals judgment affirming the trial court.