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Luken v. Christensen Group Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma

April 27, 2018

HENRY G. LUKEN III, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRISTENSEN GROUP INCORPORATED, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER

          Ronald B. Leighton United States District Judge.

         THIS 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.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         The 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.

         Rule 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.

         While 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, 2012).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Protective Order

         Luken 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 6.

         The 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 organizations to:

. . . 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 topic.

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 defenses” ...


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