United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
C. COUGHENOUR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's motion to
compel, for sanctions, and to modify case schedule (Dkt. No.
46). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing
and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument
unnecessary and hereby GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the
motion for the reasons explained herein.
filed this citizen suit pursuant to the Clean Water Act
(“CWA”), 33 U.S.C. § 1365, alleging, among
other things, that Defendant failed to adequately inspect and
maintain eight Atlantic salmon farms it operated across the
Puget Sound, in violation of its National Pollutant Discharge
Elimination System permits. (Dkt. No. 1 at 6-7.) On December
13, 2018, Plaintiff served Defendant with a deposition notice
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6). (Dkt.
No. 46-1 at 5.) Plaintiff identified 33 topics for which it
sought testimony from Defendant. (Id. at 8-16.) As
relevant to the present motion, topic 8 sought information
regarding inspections Defendant conducted on the anchoring
components at each of its facilities. (Id. at 11.) Topic
10 sought information regarding any maintenance Defendant had
undertaken at its facilities since 2012. (Id. at
12.) As part of its notice, Plaintiff also instructed
Defendant to produce any documents related to inspections
conducted during the relevant period. (Id. at 16-
17) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 34).
conferring, the parties agreed that Defendant would be
deposed for two days on February 28 and March 1, 2019.
(Id. at 186.) Defendant designated its General
Manager, Jim Parsons, to testify on its behalf. (Id.
at 25.) In the days leading up to the deposition, Defendant
produced more than 30, 000 pages of documents, which were
purportedly responsive to Plaintiff's Rule 34 request as
well as to topics 8 and 10. (Id. at 209-13.) These
documents included, for example, dive logs that appear to
show the removal of dead fish from Defendant's
facilities. (Id. at 289-313.)
asserts that Parsons was “unable and/or unwilling to
testify on issues 8 and 10 identified in the deposition
notice.” (Dkt. No. 46 at 8.) Plaintiff states that
Parsons was unable to identify, with any specificity, who
conducted the anchor inspections at Defendant's
facilities or when the inspections occurred. (Id. at
9.) Plaintiff further asserts that Parsons was unable to
testify about whether Defendant's anchor inspections
revealed a need for maintenance or repair. (Id.)
Instead, Parsons repeatedly stated that the relevant
information could be found in the records Defendant produced
to Plaintiff prior to the deposition. (Id.; see,
e.g., Dkt. No. 46-1 at 126-27.)
asks the Court to re-open Defendant's deposition so that
it can fully respond to questions regarding topics 8 and 10.
(Dkt. No. 46 at 2.) In addition, Plaintiff asks for an award
of fees for bringing this motion and for its expenses
incurred in having to conduct an additional deposition.
(Id. at 11-12.) Plaintiff also asks for a 45-day
trial continuance based on Defendant's delay in providing
timely discovery responses. (Id. at 12-13.)
Defendant argues that Parsons was adequately prepared for his
deposition, that an award of fees is not warranted, and that
the Court should keep the current trial schedule.
(See Dkt. No. 49.)
Motion to Compel Additional Rule 30(b)(6) Deposition
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6):
[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 so designated shall testify as to the matters
known or reasonably available to the organization.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(b)(6). As one court has noted, a
corporation has “a duty to make a conscientious,
good-faith effort to designate knowledgeable persons for Rule
30(b)(6) depositions and to prepare them to fully and
unevasively answer questions about the designated subject
matter.” Starlight Int'l, Inc. v. Herlihy,
186 F.R.D. 626, 638 (D. Kan. 1999); see also Flowers v.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Ctr., Case No.
C17-0989-JCC, Dkt. No. 75 at 7 (W.D. Wash. 2018) (holding
that defendant failed to prepare a corporate designee who
could not answer questions regarding one out of thirty
topics). A party may move for an order compelling discovery
where a Rule 30 deponent fails to answer questions.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B)(i). Rule 37 instructs courts to
treat a deponent's “evasive or incomplete”
answer as a failure to answer. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(4).
Court has read the relevant deposition transcript and
concludes that Parsons was not adequately prepared to testify
about the matters included in topics 8 and 10 of
Plaintiff's deposition notice. (See Dkt. No.
46-1 at 64-150.) The following excerpt is characteristic of
Parsons' answers to Plaintiff's questions concerning
the inspection of anchoring components as described in topic
Counsel: In 2018, did Cooke inspect all of
the anchoring components at Hope Island?
Counsel: Did Cooke visually inspect those
anchoring components in 2018 all the way down to ...