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Preparing for and Responding to a Washington Civil Rule 30(b)(6) Deposition Notice

On Behalf of | Nov 9, 2023 | Firm News

Washington’s Civil Rule (“CR”) 30(b)(6) allows a litigant to depose a business entity such as a corporation, partnership, association, or governmental agency. Of course, the entity, itself, cannot literally be deposed. But CR 30(b)(6) fills the gap by requiring the entity to designate one or more representatives to testify on its behalf—a spokesperson, if you will. Whomever is designated as a representative then speaks on behalf of the entity, the entity being bound by the representative’s testimony.

A CR 30(b)(6) deposition is an increasingly valuable tool in a litigator’s arsenal by requiring one or more individuals to answer for an entire business entity. This places a heavy burden on the entity to sufficiently prepare its representative(s).

Indeed, once served with a CR 30(b)(6) deposition notice, the entity must designate a representative who must respond “to matters known or reasonably available to the organization.” CR 30(b)(6). The deponent must be prepared to give “full, complete, and nonevasive answers.” Casper v. Esteb Enterprises, Inc., 119 Wn. App. 759, 767 (2004).

Preparing a deponent can be a significant undertaking. This especially true where the notice is broad in scope, where documents are sought as well as testimony, and/or where the case itself is complex, requiring a nuanced understanding of the entity’s practices and procedures.

Preparation may include, among other tasks: analyzing the deposition notice and designated topics, and asserting any objections designed to narrow the scope of anticipated testimony and/or document production; reviewing internal documents; obtaining access to external documents that are reasonably available to the organization, such as financial and/or legal documents held by third parties; evaluating potential claims of privilege, confidentiality, or other bases for protection of documents; and interviewing current and (if needed) past employees. This process can be time consuming and expensive.

But failing to adequately prepare a CR 30(b)(6) deponent can be damaging to the entity. The deponent’s testimony may be used against the entity throughout the remainder of the case. The entity may also be subject to sanctions for failing to adequately prepare their CR 30(b)(6) deponent, in the form of reimbursing the other party’s attorneys’ fees or other penalties. Thus, the risks associated with inadequately preparing a 30(b)(6) deponent can be severe.

The litigation team at JDSA is well-versed in helping entities prepare for and defend against CR 30(b)(6) depositions. Please contact us if your entity is served with a CR 30(b)(6) deposition notice and you need assistance in responding.

Sally Harmeling is a Partner at JDSA Law, with more than 13-years’ experience in litigation, including acting as lead litigator on multi- and single-party civil and commercial disputes.

Kolby Cameron is an Associate Attorney at JDSA Law, who is a 2021 graduate of the University of Washington School of Law, and has a broad legal practice, including litigation.