The Atlanta Lawyer February 2017 - Page 26

LEGAL MINUTE
Depositions of Organizations Under Rule 30 ( b )( 6 )
David P . Thatcher Ogletree , Deakins , Nash , Smoak & Stewart , P . C . david . thatcher @ ogletreedeakins . com
Erika L . Leonard Ogletree , Deakins , Nash , Smoak & Stewart , P . C . erika . leonard @ ogletreedeakins . com
Jeffrey J . Costolnick jeffrey . costolnick @ ogletreedeakins . com Ogletree , Deakins , Nash , Smoak & Stewart , P . C .
The Rule 30 ( b )( 6 ) 1 deposition authorizes a party to obtain testimony from an organization , as opposed to an individual . The Rule requires the organization to designate a person to serve as the organization ’ s voice on the noticed topics . The primary purposes of the Rule are to : ( 1 ) reduce difficulty in determining whether the deponent is a managing agent , ( 2 ) prevent “ bandying ” by corporations arising from deponents ’ disclaiming knowledge of facts clearly known to the corporation , and ( 3 ) protect the corporation by eliminating unnecessary depositions and allowing it to designate its own witness to speak on its behalf . 2 Due to the unique nature of the proceeding and sometimes seemingly onerous preparation requirements , a Rule 30 ( b )( 6 ) deposition can present certain pitfalls for unwary counsel and corporate clients . For that reason , it is essential that each party understands their role and responsibilities in a Rule 30 ( b )( 6 ) deposition ,
1 Fed . R . Civ . P . 30 ( b )( 6 ); see also , O . C . G . A . § 9-11-30 ( b )( 6 ) ( comparable Georgia law ). 2 Cates v . LTV Aerospace Corp ., 480 F . 2d 620 , 623 ( 5th Cir . 1973 ). which can prove critical to litigation strategy .
Ensuring Reasonable Particularity
A party serving notice of a deposition under Rule 30 ( b )( 6 ) must “ describe with reasonable particularity ” the topics on which testimony is sought . 3 The “ reasonable particularity ” requirement protects a corporation from the impossible task of educating a designee on generic , imprecise or uncertain topics . Neither the organization ’ s attorney nor the designee should have any questions concerning the scope of the topic . If the attorney cannot articulate to the client what the requested topic ’ s testimony entails , or the time period to be addressed , then the topic ’ s description is likely insufficient . One of the first steps taken by the organization ’ s attorney should be to carefully evaluate the notice and object to topics that are vague , overly broad , or plainly irrelevant . When a topic appears objectionable , a corporation may not unilaterally abstain from providing a designee on a noticed topic without court approval . “[ B ] locking [ of a
3 Fed . R . Civ . P . 30 ( b )( 6 ). topic through objections ] except as to privilege must be pre-authorized by way of a motion for protective order ” or ruling from the court . 4
Selection and Preparation of Designee
Once the parties have established the topics for the Rule 30 ( b )( 6 ) deposition , the corporation must produce one or more witnesses to testify about the corporation ’ s knowledge of each topic . The corporation “ appears vicariously through that agent ” and the designee must not only be prepared to testify about facts , but must also be able to speak to the corporation ’ s position and opinions on issues in the lawsuit . 5 The designee is not required to be the person most knowledgeable within the corporation , or even to possess first-hand knowledge of the topic . Conversely , “ the party seeking discovery is not entitled to insist on a specific person as the corporate representative .” 6 Testimony in a 30 ( b )( 6 ) deposition represents the knowledge of the organization rather than the knowledge of an individual deponent . Therefore , multiple designees may be required to ensure that the
4 Coach , Inc . v . Hubert Keller , Inc ., 911 F . Supp . 2d 1303 , 1310 ( S . D . Ga . 2012 ); Otero v . Vito , No . 5:04 CV 211 DF , 2006 WL 3535149 , at * 4 ( M . D . Ga . Dec . 7 , 2006 ). 5 See generally , Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co . v . Great Sw . Express Co ., No . CIV . A . 2:04-CV-69-WC , 2006 WL 587600 , at * 2 ( N . D . Ga . Mar . 10 , 2006 ); Otero , 2006 WL 3535149 , at * 4 . 6 Bayer Healthcare Pharm ., Inc . v . River ' s Edge Pharm ., LLC , No . 1:11-CV-01634-RLV , 2013 WL 11901530 , at * 3 ( N . D . Ga . Apr . 26 , 2013 ).
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