Poor Preparation of Rule 30(b)(6) Witness Merits Sanctions


In Westover v. Provident Mutual Life and Accident Ins. Co., No. C20-5931 (W.D. Washington, March 31, 2021), Provident Mutual designated a 30(b)(6) witness to testify. A 30(b)(6) witness is a company representative who is to testify on certain topics relevant to the litigation. Here, the witness testified but was unprepared on certain topics. The District Court awarded Rule 37 sanctions, but the sanctions were that the deponent was to sit for a second session, presumably after he studied the topics. The reasoning:

Sanctions are warranted here for Provident’s dilatory discovery production in relation to the Rule 30(b)(6) deposition, but not in the form that Plaintiffs request. Provident’s conduct is not so severe as to warrant monetary sanctions or warrant barring Provident from using the recently produced documents in opposition to Plaintiffs’ partial motion for summary judgment. Furthermore, it appears that the late-produced documents have not precluded Plaintiffs from filing a partial motion for summary judgment regarding the scope of ERISA preemption in accordance with the parties’ agreed schedule. See Dkt. 38.

It is concerning to the Court that Provident did not produce or make available all documents as requested in the Notice of Deposition. Therefore, the Court orders sanctions against Provident in requiring that Provident make its Rule 30(b)(6) witness available for a second deposition concerning the untimely produced documents and that Provident bear the cost of the second deposition.[2] The parties may stipulate to an extended briefing schedule on Plaintiffs’ partial motion for summary judgment and Provident’s motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ state law claims, if the second Rule 30(b)(6) deposition is necessary to resolve the pending motions. Such a deposition may resolve Plaintiffs’ recently-filed second motion for sanctions, see Dkt. 48, and the parties should advise the Court if that is the case.

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