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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. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

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