In any injury lawsuit involving a corporation, taking depositions of officers of the negligent party is an essential part of winning a case. As you may imagine, most defendants are not crazy about having their employees and officers sit for deposition. But a new case makes the process much easier, and leaves less room for corporate defendants to evade depositions.
The Deposition Process
It has always been the case that a party can depose certain employees simply by noticing them.
Traditionally, a plaintiff notices a “person with the most knowledge,” and the defendant will identify who that person is and produce him or her for deposition. There can be multiple people noticed—“person with the most knowledge as to the accident” or “person with the most knowledge as to the maintenance of the property,” etc.
But it’s usually the defendant who actually identifies and produces the individual that “matches” the request. In other words, an injured plaintiff has limited ability to specifically name the people they want to depose.
However, a recent case alters all that, and now makes it easier for plaintiffs to depose specifically named individuals.
New Case Broadens Deposition Power
In RaceTrac Petroleum v. Sewell, the injured party deposed a person with knowledge of a gas station, which was sued for failing to properly direct drivers off of its property and warn them of the flow of traffic, which led to a car accident.
That person, in the deposition, identified other officers of the company with specific knowledge of the accident and the layout of the gas station. Predictably, the plaintiff wanted to depose those other officers.
The gas station objected, taking the position that the court rules don’t allow a plaintiff to specifically name an individual to be deposed. The plaintiff countered by saying that because these individuals were specifically named by the person already deposed, there was sufficient cause to have them deposed.
The court determined that there was enough wiggle room in the civil rules to allow for the practice of allowing plaintiffs to name people employed by RaceTrac to depose. The court cited the fact that the individuals had been specifically named in the representative’s depositions, and that the trial court had limited the depositions of the additional representatives to one hour.
The decision is a common sense one. A negligent defendant being sued should not have the sole discretion over who can and can’t be deposed. And when witnesses at deposition name other witnesses, preventing them from being deposed would be unjust to a plaintiff trying to prove a case.
This doesn’t mean that corporate defendants won’t fight every opportunity to depose their officers or owners. But at least now, with diligence, and by laying a proper predicate, an injured plaintiff can create grounds to show a court that these kinds of depositions should be allowed.
Getting all the facts, even when a corporate defendant puts up a fight, can be the difference between winning and losing your case. Talk to the Miami personal injury attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today for a free consultation about your injury case.