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Sigmund v. Starwood Urban Retail VI

June 6, 2006

DONALD WRIGHT SIGMUND, PLAINTIFF,
v.
STARWOOD URBAN RETAIL VI, LLC, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
DONALD WRIGHT SIGMUND, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CASSIDY & PINKARD, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John M. Facciola United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This case was referred to me for the resolution of discovery disputes. Currently pending before me is Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Defendant Starwood's Designated Representative to Answer Questions Posed at Deposition. For the reasons stated herein, plaintiff's motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Donald Wright Sigmund sustained injuries from the explosion of a pipe bomb planted in his father's car by his stepbrother, Prescott Sigmund. To recover for his injuries, plaintiff brought the present lawsuit against both Prescott Sigmund and the owner of the parking garage in which the explosion occurred, Starwood Urban Retail VI, LLC ("Starwood"). Starwood in turn filed a Third-Party Complaint against Wolf & Cohen Life Insurance, Inc. for indemnification pursuant to a lease for commercial space.

After a period of discovery, plaintiff learned that Prescott Sigmund had obtained access to the parking garage through an entrance with a rolling steel garage door. Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Defendant Starwood's Designated Representative to Answer Questions Posed at Deposition ("Pls. Mem.") at 2. According to Prescott Sigmund, he was able to drive into the garage because the rolling steel garage door was broken and in the "up" position. Id.

Shortly after learning how Prescott Sigmund entered the garage, plaintiff filed a second lawsuit, which has been consolidated with the present one, this time against the various companies involved in the management and/or repair of the commercial building and parking garage, specifically, Cassidy & Pinkard, Inc., Cassidy & Pinkard Property Services, LLC (collectively "Cassidy & Pinkard"), Standard Parking Corporation, Standard Parking Corporation IL, Standard Parking Corporation LP (collectively "Standard Parking"), APCOA, Inc., and AGW & Associates, Inc. ("AGW & Associates"). In turn, Starwood and AGW & Associates filed cross-claims against their co-defendants for indemnification and contribution.

On September 30, 2005, plaintiff served on Starwood requests for admission. After receiving Starwood's responses, plaintiff moved to compel more complete responses. The parties had a conference call with Judge Huvelle on November 8, 2005, after which a Minute Order was issued denying without prejudice plaintiff's motion to require Starwood to respond to its requests for admission and permitting plaintiff to take a three-hour deposition to address the issues that had been the subject of those requests. Pls. Mot. at 3-4; Response to Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Deposition Answers ("Opp'n") at 1. Pursuant to that minute order, plaintiff served on Starwood a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition notice. The deposition was held on January 12, 2006. According to plaintiff, however, Starwood's designated representative, Constance Collins, was unprepared and refused to answer questions concerning the maintenance, repair, and condition of the parking garage door. Plaintiff further complains that Starwood failed to produce certain documents requested in the deposition notice. On April 28, 2006, plaintiff filed the present motion to compel Starwood's representative to answer questions asked at the deposition concerning responsibility for the repair, maintenance, and condition of the parking garage door and to produce the requested documents.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Rule 30(b)(6) Deposition Testimony Regarding

Responsibility for Maintenance, Repair, and Condition of the Rolling Steel Garage Door Rule 30(6)(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a party to depose a corporate entity through a designated representative. Specifically, Rule 30(b)(6) provides:

A party may in the party's notice and in the subpoena name as the deponent a public or private corporation . . . and describe with reasonable particularity the matters on which examination is requested. In that event, the organization so named shall designate one or more officers, directors, or managing agents, or other persons who consent to testify on their behalf, and may set forth, for each person designated, the matters on which that person will testify . . . . The persons so designated shall testify as to matters known or reasonably available to the organization . . . . Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(b)(6). Because Rule 30(b)(6) allows a corporation to speak through its designated agents, the agents' testimony is generally admissible as a statement of the corporation. McKesson Corp. v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 185 F.R.D. 70, 79 (D.D.C. 1999); Rainey v. Am. Forest and Paper Ass'n, Inc., 26 F. Supp. 2d 82, 94 (D.D.C. 1998) (the witness is "speaking for the corporation"). One of the primary purposes of Rule 30(b)(6) is to "curb the 'bandying' by which officers or managing agents of a corporation are deposed in turn but each disclaims knowledge of the facts that are clearly known to the organization and thereby to it." Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(b)(6) advisory committee's note. See also McKesson, 185 F.R.D. at 79; Alexander v. Fed. Bureau of Investigation, 186 F.R.D. 137, 141 (D.D.C. 1998).

In response to a proper Rule 30(b)(6) deposition notice, the responding party must designate a deponent who is knowledgeable on the subject matter identified as the area of inquiry. Alexander, 186 F.R.D. at 141. The responding party must also prepare the deponent so that he or she can testify on matters not only within his or her personal knowledge, but also on matters reasonably known by the responding corporation. In re Vitamins Antitrust Litig., 216 F.R.D. 168, 172 (D.D.C. 2003) (defendant corporation was obligated to produce witnesses who "were thoroughly educated about the noticed deposition topics with respect to any and all facts known to [it] or its counsel"); McKesson, 185 F.R.D. at 79 ("A designee of the receiving entity should not only testify about matters within his or her own personal knowledge, but also about matters [of] which the receiving entity has reasonable knowledge and access.").

In moving to compel, plaintiff asserts that Starwood's corporate designee, Constance Collins, "failed to prepare for the deposition, failed to review documents prior to the deposition, . . . and then failed to answer questions at the deposition." Pls. Mem. at 4. Plaintiff maintains that there are two documents relating to who was responsible for the maintenance and repair of the rolling steel garage door, specifically, a management contract entered into between Starwood and Cassidy & Pinkard and a parking services agreement entered into between Starwood and Standard Parking, and that Collins failed to review either of these documents in preparation of her deposition. Id. at 5.

In opposition, Starwood argues that the scope of the deposition was limited to issues raised in plaintiff's request for admissions and asserts that, in the telephone conference with Judge Huvelle, Judge Huvelle stated that requests for admission concerning the responsibilities of the various defendants were "improper, and not appropriate subject matter for requests for admissions, being more the equivalent of 'contention' interrogatories than requests for admissions of facts." Opp'n at 1-2 (emphasis in original). Starwood ...


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