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Naini v. King County Public Hospital District No. 2

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

December 17, 2019

ALI J. NAINI, Plaintiff,



         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant King County Public Hospital District No. 2's (Evergreen) motion for a protective order regarding Plaintiff's 30(b)(6) subpoena (Dkt. No. 50) and on Evergreen's motion to quash Plaintiff's subpoena to testify at a deposition in a civil trial to Al DeYoung (Dkt. No. 44). Having considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the motion for a protective order. The also Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the motion to quash.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Court previously laid out Plaintiff's allegations and the procedural history in this case; the Court will not repeat that information here. (See Dkt. No. 79 at 1-4.) To date, Plaintiff has deposed nine fact witnesses. (See Dkt. No. 45 at 2.) On August 22, 2019, Plaintiff served Al DeYoung, the Chairman of Evergreen's Board of Commissioners, with a subpoena to testify at a deposition, (see Dkt. No. 45-1 at 36-40), which Plaintiff later supplemented with a second subpoena, (see Id. at 42-46). On August 29, 2019, Plaintiff served Evergreen with a subpoena pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6). (See Dkt. No. 52-5.) Six days later, Plaintiff served Evergreen with an amended deposition notice that included additional topics. (See Dkt. No. 52-6 at 4-6.)

         Counsel for Plaintiffs and Defendants subsequently discussed the subpoenas for Mr. DeYoung and Evergreen, along with other discovery issues, via telephone on September 10. (See Dkt. No. 56-3 at 2.) During that discussion, Plaintiff clarified that his 30(b)(6) deposition would be his tenth deposition; the deposition of Mr. DeYoung would be Plaintiff's eleventh. (See id.) Plaintiff also agreed to narrow certain topics contained in the 30(b)(6) subpoena and amended notice. (See id.) However, the parties were unable to fully resolve their disputes regarding either the 30(b)(6) subpoena or Mr. DeYoung's subpoena. (See id.) Consequently, Evergreen filed a motion for a protective order limiting the scope of the 30(b)(6) subpoena and a motion to quash Mr. DeYoung's subpoena. (See Dkt. Nos. 44, 50.)

         Amid the briefing for those motions, Plaintiff has made several requests of the Court. (See Dkt. No. 55 at 4.) Specifically, Plaintiff requests that the Court grant him leave to depose Mr. DeYoung, to depose Christine Abraham, and to re-open the deposition of Robert Geise. (Id.) Evergreen opposes those requests. (See Dkt. No. 59 at 1-2.)


         A. Legal Standards

         Discovery motions are strongly disfavored. “Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). One particular method of discovery is the Rule 30(b)(6) deposition. Under Rule 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.

         This procedure allows a party to obtain sworn admissions that are binding on the organization. Hardin v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2011 WL 11563217, slip op. at 2 (E.D. Cal. 2011). Rule 30(b)(6) is, therefore, “a powerful and important discovery tool.” Id.

         While important, Rule 30(b)(6) is not without its limits. Embedded within Rule 30(b)(6) is the requirement that the party seeking the deposition “describe with reasonable particularity the matters for examination.” This requirement ensures that the named organization has sufficient notice to prepare for the deposition. See Buie v. District of Columbia, 327 F.R.D. 1, 7 (D.D.C. 2018). In addition, a 30(b)(6) deposition must comply with the requirements of Rule 26. See Id. at 7 n.3 (distinguishing between Rule 30(b)(6)'s reasonable particularity requirement and Rule 26's requirements). A 30(b)(6) deposition must therefore seek information that is “relevant” and “proportional.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Relevant information is “any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case.” Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978). Proportionality is a matter of “the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).

         If a party believes that a Rule 30(b)(6) subpoena or notice is improper, then it may move for a protective order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1). The party seeking a protective order bears the burden of showing that there is good cause for the court to issue the order. In re Roman Catholic Archbishop of Portland, 661 F.3d 417, 424 (9th Cir. 2011).

         B. The 30(b)(6) Deposition

         Plaintiff's 30(b)(6) subpoena and amended notice seeks information on 13 topics. (See Dkt. No. 52-6 at 3-5.) The Court will address each topic in turn.

         1. Topic 1

         Topic 1 seeks two categories of information: (1) information about “Evergreen's policies and procedures with regard to decisions to resuscitate designations for Intensive Care Unit patients, ” and (2) “documentation of the discussions by any providers or staff with [Plaintiff's] patients regarding code status changes throughout a patient's hospital stay.” (See Dkt. No. 52-6 at 3.)

         Evergreen does not appear to object to Plaintiff's request for the first category of information, and that information is relevant to Plaintiff's claim that Defendants campaigned to have his privileges revoked after he raised concerns about ICU physicians improperly advising patients to consent to Do Not Resuscitate designations. (See Dkt. No. 23 at 8-9, 11, 45-46.) The first category in topic 1 is therefore appropriate.

         While Evergreen does not object the first category of information, Evergreen does object to the second category, arguing that it would require research into and testimony regarding hundreds of patients. (See Dkt. Nos. 50 at 10, 59 at 4.) In response, Plaintiff states that he is “willing to limit the specific patients at issue to those for whom their relatives or surrogates have submitted declarations and/or for whom Defendants have requested that [Plaintiff] produce their entire medical records.” (Dkt. No. 55 at 11.) But Plaintiff's offer is apparently not enough for Evergreen; it insists that ...

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