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Estate Of James Jacques v. Borden, Inc.

Court of Workers Compensation of Montana

March 20, 1997

ESTATE OF JAMES JACQUES, Deceased, by and through ANN JACQUES Petitioner
v.
BORDEN, INCORPORATED Respondent/Insurer/Employer.

          Submitted: March 14, 1997

          ORDER DENYING MOTION TO REQUIRE PROPER SIGNING OF DISCOVERY AND AWARDING RESPONDENT ATTORNEY FEES

          Mike McCarter JUDGE

         Summary: Petitioner moved the Court to require someone to sign interrogatory answers other than the attorney for the respondent corporation. Respondent argues that rules of procedure permit an attorney to sign answers to interrogatories. In response, petitioner asserts that if respondent's counsel signs interrogatory answers, he should sign under oath, and thereafter be subject to interrogation as a witness.

         Held: While the rules of the Workers' Compensation Court make no provision for signature by an attorney for a corporation on interrogatory answers, precedent of federal courts, under rules identical to the M.R.Civ.Pro., allows an attorney to sign such answers. Moreover, under ARM 24.5.303(7), an attorney's signature to any document in the WCC is his/her certification that it is made to the best of his/her knowledge, information and belief. Sanctions awarded against petitioner's counsel for filing a motion obviously part of "hardball" litigation tactics, not based on any real concern in this particular case.

         Topics:

Discovery: Interrogatories. An attorney for a corporate respondent insurer may sign interrogatory answers. While the rules of the Workers' Compensation Court make no provision for signature by an attorney for a corporation on interrogatory answers, precedent of federal courts, under rules identical to the M.R.Civ.Pro., allows an attorney to sign such answers. Moreover, under ARM 24.5.303(7), an attorney's signature to any document in the WCC is his/her certification that it is made to the best of his/her knowledge, information and belief. Sanctions awarded against petitioner's counsel for filing a motion obviously part of "hardball" litigation tactics, not based on any real concern in this particular case.
Sanctions. An attorney for a corporate respondent insurer may sign interrogatory answers. While the rules of the Workers' Compensation Court make no provision for signature by an attorney for a corporation on interrogatory answers, precedent of federal courts, under rules identical to the M.R.Civ.Pro., allows an attorney to sign such answers. Moreover, under ARM 24.5.303(7), an attorney's signature to any document in the WCC is his/her certification that it is made to the best of his/her knowledge, information and belief. Sanctions awarded against petitioner's counsel for filing a motion obviously part of "hardball" litigation tactics, not based on any real concern in this particular case.

         The present matter before the Court is a motion entitled Petitioner's Motion to Require Proper Signing of Respondent's Interrogatory Answers and Supporting Memorandum (Petitioner's Motion) filed March 11, 1997. In the motion petitioner objects to interrogatory answers signed by respondent's counsel and states, "Counsel for Jacques has requested Borden to have an authorized representative sign the responses under oath and Borden has refused." (Petitioner's Motion at 1.) The motion does not ask that counsel for Borden verify the answers, rather it says, "Jacques respectfully requests the Court for its Order requiring Borden, as opposed to its counsel, to sign the responses and to do so under oath." (Petitioner's Motion at 2, emphasis added.)

         In pursuing the motion, petitioner rattles sabers, asserting that if someone from Borden does not sign the answers, then she "will have no alternative" but to call Borden's counsel at trial to interrogate him concerning the discovery responses. (Petitioner's Motion at 1.)

         In its response to the motion, Borden argues that the rules of procedure permit an attorney to sign answers to interrogatories propounded to a corporation. It relies on three cases decided by federal courts under the amended Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Those cases expressly hold that an attorney for a corporation may sign answers to interrogatories. United States v. 42 Jars, More or Less, 264 F.2d 666, 670 (3rd Cir. 1959); Segarra v. Waterman S. Corp., 41 F.R.D. 245, 248 (D.C. Puerto Rico, 1966); Fernandes v. United Fruit Co., 50 F.R.D. 82, 85-86 (D.C. Maryland, 1970).

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Montana Rules of Civil Procedure both provide that an "officer or agent" of a corporation may sign interrogatories on its behalf. Rule 33, Mont. R. Civ. P., provides in relevant part:

RULE 33. INTERROGATORIES TO PARTIES
(a) Availability--Procedures for Use--Limitations. Any party may serve upon any other party written interrogatories to be answered by the parties served or, if the party served is a public or private corporation or a partnership or association or governmental agency, by any officer or agent, who shall furnish such information as is available to the party. . . .
Each interrogatory shall be answered separately and fully in writing under oath unless it is objected to in which event the reasons for objection shall be stated in lieu of an answer. The party answering the interrogatories shall set forth a verbatim recopy of each of the interrogatories, followed by the answer thereto. The answers are to be signed by the ...

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