District Court Sanctions Party for Inadequate Preparation of Corporate Witness

by Michael P. Lewis on June 2, 2013

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6) governs the practice of designating and deposing organizations.  An organization that receives a notice of deposition must designate and present representatives to testify on its behalf about information “known or reasonably available to the organization.”  The rule provides no guidelines regarding the degree of preparation required of such witnesses, and this often leads to disputes over the appropriate degree of preparation of corporate witnesses.

Recently, in Citgo Petroleum Corporation v. Odfejell Seachem, et al., the District Court for the Southern District of Texas granted a motion for monetary sanctions upon finding that a corporate witness was insufficiently prepared to testify about the topics in a Rule 30(b)(6) notice. Most of the examination topics related to procedures for vetting the seaworthiness of vessels and application of those procedures to a specific ship.  Despite this, the corporate witness had neither contacted the employee responsible for inspecting the vessel in question, nor reviewed the company’s manuals, policies, or procedures relevant to the vetting process.  The court found that the witness’s lack of preparation indicated that the company was “intentionally shielding itself” from knowledge and information within its control, and awarded sanctions against the company for costs and attorney fees required by the deposition.

A copy of the order can be found here.

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