Interrogating a Company
Discovery can often be the longest and most expensive portion of a lawsuit, especially when dealing with commercial litigation. The idea behind discovery is that it allows attorneys to get information from the other side to help build their cases. One of the most powerful discovery tools that a lawyer has is the deposition, which is an interview in which a party’s lawyer gets to ask the other side and their witnesses questions about the case.
However, when dealing with commercial litigation, it can be difficult to cut through the organizational morass of a corporation to actually find the people who know things relevant to the case, and that does not even account for the other side’s lawyers preparing the people being deposed in an effort to make their testimony as beneficial to their side as possible. Fortunately, the law provides a special type of deposition designed specifically to deal with deposing corporations. This type of deposition is known as a 30(b)(6) deposition, named after the rule that allows their use.
The Purpose of Rule 30(b)(6)
Rule 30(b)(6) is a procedural rule in federal court that allows lawyers to depose a corporation. The rule allows a lawyer to ask the company to designate a representative to speak for the corporation at a deposition. The idea behind this is to enable a lawyer to understand what a company knew and when, without deposing the entire C-Suite.
The key difference between this type of deposition and an ordinary deposition on a practical level is the fact that the organization’s representative has a duty to be prepared to answer questions, which ordinary deponents do not have. This lack of a duty can lead to ordinary depositions being full of terse answers and hazy recollections. Organizational representatives cannot get off so easily. They need to come knowing what the corporation knew, and organizations can actually be sanctioned by the court if their representative shows up to the deposition without being properly prepared.
The Procedure of Rule 30(b)(6)
Rule 30(b)(6) depositions usually have a fairly straightforward procedure that they follow. First, the party that wants to depose the company sends the company a notice. In this notice, they include the sorts of topics that they want information on, such as corporate policies on specific matters. After receiving the notice, the organization can respond by objecting to the topics, by designating representatives for deposition on the topics, or some combination of the two. Common objections to the topics can include arguments that the topics are overly broad or that answering questions on them would require the company to disclose privileged information.
Once the debate over the topics is settled, the company must find witnesses to testify. These do not need to be the most knowledgeable people in the company on these subjects, but they do need to be properly prepared before the deposition. The deposition then proceeds as normal, with the lawyer interviewing the witness and trying to discover information that would be important to the case.
If you have more questions about commercial litigation, contact a West Palm Beach business litigation attorney at Pike & Lustig, LLP today. Our firm is here to help you understand how the litigation landscape impacts your company.