A Blog About Intellectual Property Litigation and the District of Delaware

Entries for tag: Depositions

The view as you take off on the redeye after a one-hour deposition of a non-critical witness
The view as you take off on the redeye after a one-hour deposition of a non-critical witness Saman Tsang, Unsplash

At this point, the vast majority of the impact of COVID-19 on the District of Delaware seems to have passed. The Court has entered Phase 4, full return to normal operations. It's becoming uncommon, at this point, to see counsel or Court personnel wearing masks at the courthouse.

The COVID-19 pandemic was obviously a horrible tragedy, but one positive response to it has been the widespread adoption of remote depositions, which are far (far!) more efficient for certain circumstances. If you've ever flown cross-country for a deposition, then boarded the red-eye back immediately after the deposition, you may agree.

But sometimes the other side won't agree to a remote deposition. That's why I found this order from Judge Stark (who it seems is still working hard in Delaware) to be interesting:

ORAL ORDER: Having reviewed the parties' letters regarding a discovery dispute (see D.I. 543, 544), IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs' request that MSN and Sandoz be required to produce Dr. Reus for an in-person deposition is DENIED. Virtual depositions have been permitted for fact discovery in this case due to the ongoing global health crisis. (See, e.g., D.I. 34 at 13-14) Defendants represent that their expert is at some greater-than-average risk of adverse health consequences were he to contract Covid and Plaintiffs fail to identify any meaningful prejudice that would ...

Fusion Medical Animation, Unsplash

Not all attorneys love remote depositions, even if they are much more convenient and practical in many cases (especially for foreign witnesses). The parties in Supernus Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Lupin Limited, C.A. No. 21-1293-MN (D. Del.), an ANDA case, brought two disputes before Judge Noreika about remote depositions:

  1. Whether all parties should be required to make all witnesses available live, instead of via remote deposition; and
  2. Whether all parties, including a defendant who brought counterclaims, should be required to bring their witnesses to the United States for deposition without the other parties having to engage in Hague Convention procedures.

Plaintiff sought to force live, in-person depositions of all witnesses in the …

It can sometimes get messy when someone is deposed both in their individual capacity and as a Rule 30(b)(6) designee. Sometimes the parties specifically call out which sections of the transcript relate to 30(b)(6) topics or otherwise signpost for the record which bits of the deposition are meant to be binding on the corporation—but, frequently, the resulting transcript is less clear than one might hope. A discovery dispute earlier this week showcased an attempt at a novel solution to this problem that, unfortunately, doesn't work.

The defendants in Schwendimann v. Neenah, Inc., C.A. No. 19-361-LPS, noticed a deposition of the plaintiff's corporate head, Jodi Schwendimann, in her personal capacity, and also sent a 30(b)(6) notice for the corporation that …

Judge Burke last month addressed a motion to strike portions of an expert report regarding commercial acceptability of a non-infringing alternative.

As set forth in the report, an expert may rely on experience in the industry, but must explain "how that experience leads to the conclusions reached." Here, the expert opined that an alternative was commercially acceptable, but did not set forth why.

Then, when asked for more detail at his deposition, he responded with a snide comment:

[D]uring his deposition, [the expert] very ill−advisedly made things worse when he responded to a question on this subject by flippantly suggesting that he had "no backing" for the conclusion, and had simply "put [it] in on purpose" because Plaintiffs' expert similarly …

Technical difficulties
Technical difficulties Glitch While Streaming, Michael Dziedzic, Unsplash

As we've previously discussed the district's local rules and longstanding practice prohibit speaking to a witness about the substance of his testimony during a deposition. Specifically, D. Del. local rule 30.6 states:

From the commencement until the conclusion of deposition questioning by an opposing party, including any recesses or continuances, counsel for the deponent shall not consult or confer with the deponent regarding the substance of the testimony already given or anticipated to be given, except for the purpose of conferring on whether to assert a privilege against testifying or on how to comply with a court order.

Normally, the application of this rule is pretty straightforward. But what …

Tobias Eggerman, Unsplash

Depositions have been especially hard during the pandemic. Luckily, the quick proliferation of Zoom and its competitors have made it possible to take remote depositions that roughly approximate the experience of angrily objecting across a conference table.

International depositions, however, have remained problematic. In the past, witnesses could simply be shuffled from a country with hugely restrictive deposition procedures to a more friendly jurisdiction -- be it the Netherlands, the UK, a consulate, or even beautiful Delaware.

Travel restrictions and the closing of consular offices have made this a non-starter in many cases and so there has been a bit of a resurgence in proceedings under the Hague as parties struggle to get what discovery they …

FRCP 30 was amended in December 2020 to add a meet-and-confer requirement:

FRCP 30(b)(6) Amendment
U.S. Government Publishing Office

The amendment also suggests (by removing "then") that a party may designate its 30(b)(6) witness as part of the parties' discussions before the notice goes out.

No revised PDF of the rules is available yet, but Cornell's very-frequently-relied-upon page has already been updated.

No Change to Objection Procedures

One issue that commonly arises here in Delaware is that the parties serve an FRCP 30(b)(6) notice but do not receive objections until immediately before the deposition, leaving no time to resolve the issues.

Why is that? Because there is no deadline in the FRCP or the D. Del. local rules for objections to a …

For decades, judges in D. Del. have enforced a general rule that you can’t serve 30(b)(6) topics on a party’s contentions. The rationale is simple: it just isn’t fair to burden a single witness with that much information. Contention interrogatories can achieve the same the same goal, without forcing a 30(b)(6) witness to sit for the most stressful memory test of their life.

In a discovery order on Friday, Judge Andrews highlighted an important corollary to this rule: you can’t get around it by framing your contention topic as a request for “all facts” about a party’s contentions. The judge found that all four of these examples were improper contention topics:

  • Investigations, tests, studies, surveys, interviews, reviews, analyses and …

COVID-19, CDC/Hannah A Bullock; Azaibi Tamin

Here's something you don't see every day.

After a discovery dispute about bringing a parties' European witnesses to the US for deposition during the pandemic, Judge Noreika ordered that depositions of a defendants' witnesses may initially take place by written questions under FRCP 31:

ORAL ORDER . . . IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that . . . Plaintiff may request a deposition of the witnesses pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 31. Any such deposition shall be subject to Local Rule 30.6, with the "commencement" of the written deposition being when Defendants' counsel receives the written questions and the "conclusion" of the deposition being when Defendants' counsel serves the response …

I thought this was interesting. Last week Judge Burke granted a motion to compel a plaintiff's witness to respond on questions about the plaintiff's litigation financing arrangements.

Apparently plaintiff's attorneys instructed the witness not to answer at the deposition, but in the discovery dispute they only argued that the information is irrelevant, and did not raise privilege. Since relevance is not a valid justification for an instruction not to answer under FRCP 30, the Court permitted defendant to re-ask the question and held that plaintiff's witness must answer.

About Those Redacted Versions

I say plaintiff "apparently" objected only on reasonableness grounds because plaintiff never filed the redacted version of its sealed letter brief—a common problem.

If parties continue …