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Federal Bar Update: Rule 30(b)(6) depositions

John Maley
July 2, 2014
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FedBarMaley-sigOne of the most useful tools in discovery is the Rule 30(b)(6) deposition, allowing a party to depose an entity, which must then produce one or more witnesses to testify to enumerated topics. The rule provides in part: “[A] party may name as the deponent a public or private corporation, a partnership, an association, a governmental agency, or other entity and must describe with reasonable particularity the matters for examination. The named organization must then designate one or more officers, directors, or managing agents, or designate other persons who consent to testify on its behalf; and it may set out the matters on which each person designated will testify. The persons designated must testify about information known or reasonably available to the organization.”

For a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition to be effective, the notice must describe the topics to be covered. Thus, in Pringle v. Garcia, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65463 (N.D. Ind. May 8, 2013), Magistrate Judge Andrew Rodovich denied a motion to compel further answers to a 30(b)(6) deposition, noting that the deposing party failed to describe the matters to be discussed in the deposition notice.

In practice, disputes sometimes arise regarding the sufficiency of the witness’s knowledge. In a recent District Court ruling, for instance, the entity served with the 30(b)(6) notice failed to produce a sufficiently knowledgeable witness and was sanctioned. Waste Connections, Inc. v. Appleton Elec., LLC, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 40984 (D. Neb. Mar. 27, 2014). The court wrote, “The testimony of a Rule 30(b)(6) witness represents the collective knowledge of the corporation, not of the specific individual deponents. The duty to prepare a Rule 30(b)(6) witness goes beyond matters personally known to the designee or to matters in which the designated witness was personally involved. If the rule is to promote effective discovery regarding corporations, the spokesperson must be informed. [[T]he corporation] must make a conscientious good-faith endeavor to designate the persons having knowledge of the matters sought by [the interrogator] and to prepare those persons in order that they can answer fully, completely, unevasively, the questions posed by [the interrogator] as to the relevant subject matters.” (citations omitted)

The court granted the motion to compel, concluding, “The plaintiff designated an individual who had limited knowledge of the matters set forth in the deposition notice and completely failed to prepare Mr. Bowman so that he may provide knowledgeable and binding answers on behalf of the plaintiff.” The court also awarded attorney fees as a sanction.

Locally, in EEOC v. Celadon Trucking Services, Inc., 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 156485, (S.D. Ind. Nov. 1, 2013), the EEOC moved to compel the employer to produce a proper Rule 30(b)(6) deponent regarding personnel policies on its recruitment, application and orientation processes for over-the-road truck drivers from 2007 forward. The employer produced its director of recruiting to testify to these topics, and thereafter the EEOC challenged his knowledge.

Magistrate Judge Tim Baker denied the motion, explaining, “Celadon Trucking’s brief thoroughly and persuasively reveals that Chesterman was an acceptable deponent, even though admittedly he was unable to answer some questions posed to him. Rule 30(b)(6) requires the business entity to prepare a deponent to adequately testify on matters known by the deponent, and also on subjects that the entity should reasonably know. Sanyo Laser Products, Inc. v. Artista Records, Inc., 214 F.R.D. 496, 503 (S.D. Ind. 2003). Rule 30(b)(6) does not promise a perfect deponent, just a knowledgeable one under the circumstances.”

Judge Baker further wrote, “Chesterman is Celadon Trucking’s current director of recruiting. Under the circumstances, Chesterman was the most qualified individual to respond to the Rule 30(b)(6) topics. Indeed, this was precisely what Chesterman stated under oath as he spent more than five hours discussing an array of topics covering a six-year period. [Docket No. 73 at 584, 593.] In fact, the EEOC has not identified a current Celadon employee who has greater knowledge than Chesterman concerning the Rule 30(b)(6) topics. Moreover, in the days following Chesterman’s deposition the EEOC took the depositions of at least four Celadon recruiters, who presumably could help fill in any gaps in Chesterman’s testimony. For these reasons, the EEOC’s motion to compel a proper Rule 30(b)(6) deponent is denied.”

Save the date – The 2014 annual federal civil practice seminar will return Dec. 19 this year; mark your calendars.•

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John Maley – jmaley@btlaw.com – is a partner with Barnes & Thornburg LLP, practicing federal and state litigation, employment matters and appeals. The opinions expressed are those of the author.
 

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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