Author: Catherine S. Giering

CORPORATE DEPOSITIONS: Recent Amendment to Federal Rules Mark a Positive Change

Litigation is increasingly a “part of doing business.” In federal court, corporate depositions are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6) (frequently referred to as a “30(b)(6) deposition”).  When a corporate representative is appointed to testify on behalf of a company, they are typically provided a deposition notice which identifies the subjects he or she will be asked to address in their testimony. However, the process is not always smooth when the parties disagree about what is fairly covered in the notice. A recent amendment to Rule 30 aims to improve the process.

Preparing for a 30(b)(6) deposition can be overwhelming and time-consuming.  Often, the imprecise identification of subjects in the notice leaves the corporation wondering what the noticing party really seeks to explore or even who is the best individual to testify to the topics identified.  The federal judiciary has observed that corporate representative(s) under the current practice are often unprepared to provide the necessary testimony and/or that the entity’s interpretation of the deposition topics does not match the intent of the noticing party.  The result is aborted or suspended depositions, extended litigation, increased costs, and the birth of theories that the deponent intentionally obstructed the deposition, which is usually not the case.

To address these issues, effective December 1, 2020, Rule 30(b)(6) now reads as follows (changes in bold):

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 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.  Before or promptly after the notice or subpoena is served, the serving party and the organization must confer in good faith about the matters for examination.  A subpoena must advise a nonparty organization of its duty to confer with the serving party and to designate each person who will testify. …

The recent amendment directs the serving party and the named organization to confer before or promptly after the notice or subpoena is served about the matters for examination.  The intent is to “facilitate collaborative efforts” and to encourage “candid exchanges about the purposes of the deposition and the organization’s information structure [which] may clarify and focus the matters for examination and enable the organization to designate and to prepare an appropriate witness or witnesses, thereby avoiding later disagreements.”  (Committee Notes; Rule 30).  The Committee Notes even suggest that the notice of the deposition may be “refined as the parties confer.”  The Committee Notes further provide that the obligation is to “confer in good faith,” not to reach agreement, and remind that “it may be desirable to seek guidance from the court.” 

The recent changes to Rule 30 are subtle but may prove impactful. Because the new procedure is now in effect, we should know soon.