United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
HENRY G. LUKEN III, Plaintiff,
CHRISTENSEN GROUP INCORPORATED, et al., Defendants.
ORDER ON MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER
B. Leighton United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on Defendants Christensen Group
Incorporated (CGI) and Christensen Trust's Motion for
Protective Order [Dkt. #148]. Plaintiff Henry Luken noticed
depositions to several organizations pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
30(b)(6), including CGI, the Christensen Trust, the
accounting firm of Fordham Goodfellow, and the law firm of
English & Marshall. CGI and the Christensen Trust seek a
protective order from the Court, arguing that Luken's
organizational deposition notices are facially overbroad, are
not proportional, and would place an unjustifiable burden on
the deponents. Luken contends that his deposition notices are
reasonable and targeted to the discovery of relevant
information in the case.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Civil Rules
for the Western District of Washington govern discovery and
the process by which a party notices depositions.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6) provides:
Notice or Subpoena Directed to an
Organization. In its notice or subpoena, 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. A subpoena must advise a
nonparty organization of its duty to make this designation.
The persons designated must testify about information
known or reasonably available to the organization. This
paragraph (6) does not preclude a deposition by any other
procedure allowed by these rules.
(Emphasis added). “The goal of the Rule 30(b)(6)
requirement is to enable the responding organization to
identify the person who is best situated to answer questions
about the matter.” See Wright & Miller, 8A
Federal Practice & Procedure § 2103 at 454 (3d ed.).
This Rule was intended to prevent the officers or managers of
larger organizations from “bandying, ” the
practice of disclaiming knowledge of facts clearly known to
the organization. Id. at 452-53.
30(b)(6) depositions, like all other discovery requests are
subject to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26's proportionality standards.
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. New Horizont,
Inc., 254 F.R.D. 227, 233 n.3 (E.D. Pa. 2008). Local
Civil Rule 26(f) provides “[t]he proportionality
standard set forth in Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1) must be applied
in every case when parties formulate a discovery plan and
promulgate discovery requests. To further the application of
the proportionality standard in discovery, discovery requests
and related responses should be reasonably targeted, clear,
and as specific as possible.” In circumstances where a
party abuses the discovery process, Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1)
permits a party from whom discovery is sought to move for a
protective order to safeguard the party from annoyance,
embarrassment, oppression, undue burden, or expense.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1) permits a party to “obtain
discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant
to any party's claim or defense, ” courts have
limited discovery where the breadth of subjects and number of
topics identified in a 30(b)(6) deposition notice renders a
responding party's efforts to designate a knowledgeable
person unworkable. See e.g., Apple Inc., v. Samsung Elec.
Co., Ltd., 2012 WL 1511901, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 27,
sent Rule 30(b)(6) deposition notices to CSL Defendants
counsel for the following organizations: CGI, the Christensen
Trust, the accounting firm of Fordham Goodfellow, and the law
firm of English & Marshall. See Dkt. 149-1; Dkt.
149-2; Dkt. 149-3. Defendants contend the deposition notices
are overly burdensome and seek information having
“little to do with those entities' own activities
and organizational knowledge and everything to do with
CSL's.” Dkt. 154 at 4. Luken asserts that he seeks
relevant information and is “entitled to conduct
discovery using all the permissible methods including entity
depositions under Rule 30(b)(6), to the full scope of
permissible discovery and in any sequence.” Dkt. 152 at
Court has reviewed all of the challenged 30(b)(6) deposition
notices and concludes that they suffer from the same flaws as
Luken's overbroad contention interrogatories and blanket
discovery requests that the Court previously struck.
See Dkt. 125. For example, Luken directs each of the
. . . present one or more representatives properly prepared
to testify as to all information known or reasonably
available (after a reasonable investigation), including
information in the possession of your counsel, to you on the
topics set out below. Without limiting the scope of each
topic, each topic includes (1) the extent and dates of your
involvement with respect to the topic; (2) the substance of
facts and details related to each topic; (3) the identity of
persons with personal knowledge or discoverable information
relating to the topic; (4) the nature, identity substance,
and location of all Documents evidencing or relating to each
topic; (5) the date, nature, and persons involved in any
communications relating to the topic; (6) any damage or
prejudice to CSL or any party arising from or related to any
topic; and (7) the evidence supporting or contradicting any
claim, assertion of misconduct, or defense relating to the
topic. This listing of specific examples or sub-topics is not
intended to and does not limit the breadth of any topic.
Topics intentionally overlap and do not limit any other
Dkt. 149-1 at 3-4; Dkt. 149-2 at 3-4; Dkt. 149 at 3-4.
Another request directs the designees for CGI and the
Christensen Trust to testify on “[t]he factual basis,
details, persons involved, corroborating or contradicting
evidence, and other details of Defendants' affirmative