Rule 30(b)(6) Involves Subtle Issues

November 15, 2017

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(b)(6), corporations must designate and educate one or more witnesses to answer deposition questions based on the corporation’s collective knowledge.  Such depositions raise obvious privilege issues, because (1) lawyers inevitably help gather the corporation’s facts and relay those to the Rule 30(b)(6) witness; and (2) the privilege can protect some of the witness’s education session, but not the historical facts. 

In Alheid v. Target Corp., No. 16 Civ. 6980 (PGG) (HBP), 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 138922 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 29, 2017), Magistrate Judge Pitman rejected defendants’ argument that the personal injury plaintiff should have to depose other knowledgeable Target employees before requiring Target to produce a Rule 30(b)(6) witness.  The court noted that plaintiff’s “30(b)(6) notice does not seek defendants’ contentions or their work product.”  Id. at *8.  In other words, plaintiff’s “notice does not seek to have defendants identify the facts that support their contentions, rather it seeks only facts.”  Id.  The court did not fully explain where to draw that line. 

Given the predictable and universal role lawyers play in gathering facts and educating Rule 30(b)(6) witnesses, one would think that every such deposition would trigger a privilege dispute.  Given the surprising lack of case law on these and other subtle Rule 30(b)(6) issues, plaintiffs’ and defendants’ lawyers apparently muddle through most Rule 30(b)(6) depositions without seeking courts’ intervention.