A well-worded, targeted corporate representative deposition notice garners the attention of even the most experienced in-house product liability counsel. If not approached vigilantly, a response to the corporate representative deposition notice can result in major problems for a product manufacturer — not only in the underlying litigation but also in future lawsuits. While a corporation itself may have many positions on a single issue addressed in a lawsuit, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that an organization speak with "one voice" on the issue in its corporate representative deposition. Because a product manufacturer must answer questions on which the corporation otherwise does not have knowledge and the testimony binds the corporation, the ramifications of a 30(b)(6) deposition are far reaching.
Adequately preparing for the defense of a corporate representative deposition takes time and a detailed understanding of the rules and case law concerning 30(b)(6) depositions. However, one must also have a keen understanding that the rules can be a disadvantage to the corporate defendant and that counsel must extensively prepare the witness for handling difficult lines of questioning. Not only must corporate counsel comply with the black letter law, but the strategic situations of defending a corporate representative deposition must not be overlooked.
The following are the top 10 rules for dealing with a corporate representative deposition notice in a product liability lawsuit. To stay as broad as possible, this article addresses mostly federal law because a great majority of state corporate deposition rules are patterned after the federal rule. It should also be noted that local practice may dictate deviations from the recommendations and strategy set forth below.
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