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Barnard Pipeline, Inc. v. Travelers Property Casualty Company of America

United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division

May 2, 2014

BARNARD PIPELINE, INC., a Montana Corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
TRAVELERS PROPERTY CASUALTY COMPANY OF AMERICA, Defendant.

ORDER

DANA L. CHRISTENSEN, Chief District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant's motion to compel testimony under Rule 30(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons explained below, the motion is granted as specifically described below.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Barnard Pipeline, Inc., ("Barnard") brings this action against its insurer, Defendant Travelers Property Casualty Company of America ("Travelers"), for a declaratory judgment that Travelers is obligated to provide coverage. Barnard also asserts a claim of insurance bad faith against Travelers.

Barnard tendered a claim to Travelers for alleged covered losses associated with Barnard's construction of a pipeline project in Utah. Barnard allegedly tendered the claim for coverage on December 6, 2011. Travelers allegedly had over a year to complete its investigation into Barnard's claim, but had not provided a decision concerning coverage when Barnard filed its complaint against Travelers on January 2, 2013. Barnard alleges that Travelers acted in bad faith in conducting its investigation and loss adjustment.

On December 12, 2013, Travelers served Barnard with an amended Rule 30(b)(6) designee deposition notice. The notice requested that the designee be prepared to discuss twenty-four different topic areas at the deposition. Barnard designated Marty Jorgensen to testify, and the deposition took place on December 20, 2013. Dissatisfied with a number of Jorgensen's responses during the deposition, Travelers' counsel noted that the proceeding would remain open for purposes of clarifying any of Jorgensen's responses.

Then, on January 10, 2014, Travelers emailed Barnard counsel a "nonexhaustive list" of twenty-two questions which it sought to ask Jorgensen at a follow-up deposition. (Doc. 69-3 at 2-3.) Barnard proposed to provide written answers to those questions, but Travelers again noted that a continuation deposition might nevertheless be necessary if it deemed the written responses inadequate. After receiving Barnard's written responses, Travelers contended that Barnard answered some, but not all, of its questions, and the parties momentarily agreed to a February 12, 2014 telephone deposition to resolve the inadequacies. When Barnard refused to participate in the February 12th telephone deposition, Travelers agreed to narrow the scope of questioning to five topics it believed "were within the scope of the original Notice, on which the designated witness could not answer without further investigation, and on which the follow-up written answers did not fully resolve the question or raised new questions." (Doc. 69 at 7).

Barnard declined to provide further information on any of the five topic areas identified by Travelers, citing attorney-client privilege as to one topic area and sufficient previous responses as to the others. Travelers filed the instant motion to compel Rule 30(b)(6) testimony on March 7, 2014.

APPLICABLE LAW

In discovery, when a party "name[s] as [a] deponent a public or private corporation, " the corporation "must then designate one or more officers, directors, or managing agents, or designate other persons who consent to testify on its behalf." Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6). The party seeking discovery "must describe with reasonable particularity the matters for examination." Id. Pursuant to the rule, the corporate designee "must testify about information known or reasonably available to the organization." Id. "This duty requires a Rule 30(b)(6) designee to testify to more than just what he or she personally knows... [t]he designee speaks for the organization as a whole and must make efforts to be able to do so." Pioneer Drive, LLC v. Nissan Diesel Am., Inc., 262 F.R.D. 552, 558 (D. Mont. 2009). "The corporate party... has an affirmative duty to educate and to prepare the designated representative for the deposition." Id.

A party seeking discovery under Rule 30 may move to compel answers to questions which a deponent fails to answer. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B)(i). The "liberal discovery principles of the Federal Rules... require[] [a party opposing discovery] to carry a heavy burden of showing why discovery [should be] denied." Blankenship v. Hearst Corp., 519 F.2d 418, 429 (9th Cir. 1975). "The party who resists discovery has the burden to show that discovery should not be allowed, and has the burden of clarifying, explaining, and supporting its objections." Parrick v. FedEx Grounds Package System, Inc., 2010 WL 2854314 at *1 (D. Mont. 2010) (citations omitted). "Broad discretion is vested in the trial court to permit or deny discovery." Hallett v. Morgan, 296 F.3d 732, 751 (9th Cir. 2002).

ANALYSIS

The Court will address in turn each of the five topics about which Travelers seeks ...


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