Crossley v. Minnesota Life Insurance Company
ORDER Granting 13 Motion to Terminate or Limit Defendant's Deposition of Plaintiff Laurie Crossley and Denying 20 Motion for Sanctions - Signed by Magistrate Judge Mona K. Majzoub. (LBar)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
CIVIL ACTION NO. 16-cv-11879
DISTRICT JUDGE NANCY G. EDMUNDS
MINNESOTA LIFE INSURANCE
MAGISTRATE JUDGE MONA K. MAJZOUB
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S MOTION TO TERMINATE OR
LIMIT DEFENDANT’S DEPOSITION OF PLAINTIFF LAURIE CROSSLEY  AND
DENYING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SANCTIONS UNDER FED. R. CIV. P.
This matter comes before the Court on two competing motions concerning Defendant
Minnesota Life Insurance Company’s Deposition of Plaintiff, Laurie Crossley: Plaintiff’s Motion
to Terminate or Limit Defendant’s Deposition of Plaintiff Laurie Crossley (docket no. 13), and
Defendant’s Motion for Sanctions Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(d)(2) (docket no. 20). Defendant
filed a Response (docket no. 21) to Plaintiff’s Motion, and Plaintiff filed a Response (docket no.
24) to Defendant’s Motion. Defendant also filed a Reply in support of its Motion. (Docket no.
27.) The motions have been referred to the undersigned for consideration. (Docket nos. 18, 22.)
The Court has reviewed the pleadings and dispenses with oral argument pursuant to Eastern
District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f)(2). The Court is now ready to rule pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
As a preliminary matter, the Court notes that in Plaintiff’s Motion, she fails to indicate
that she sought concurrence from Defendant prior to filing the motion in accordance with Eastern
District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(a). Defendant does not address Plaintiff’s efforts to seek
concurrence in its Response. “Seeking concurrence from the opponent is a mandatory directive
of the Local Rules of this District.” U.S. v. Ramesh, No. 02-80756, 2009 WL 817549, at *6
(E.D. Mich. Mar. 26, 2009). While the Court is inclined to deny Plaintiff’s Motion on this basis,
it will instead decide Plaintiff’s motions on the merits.
Plaintiff’s husband died following a motorcycle accident in 2015. Plaintiff filed a claim
on her late husband’s life insurance policy with Defendant, Minnesota Life Insurance Company,
but Defendant denied the claim, citing 1) hospital records which Defendant argues show that the
decedent was intoxicated at the time of the crash, and 2) the decedent’s life insurance policy,
which provides that:
In no event will we pay a benefit where your loss or injury is caused directly or
indirectly by, results from, or there is contribution from, any of the following:
(6) motor vehicle collision or accident where you are the operator of the motor
vehicle and your blood alcohol level meets or exceeds the level at which
intoxication is defined in the state where the collision or accident occurred,
regardless of the outcome of any legal proceedings connected thereto[.]
(Docket no. 20-3 at 4.)
The parties convened for Defendant’s deposition of Plaintiff on January 25, 2017.
(Docket no. 13 at 1.) The dispute concerning the deposition arose when counsel for Defendant
began questioning Plaintiff about medical records; in particular, a record from one of the
decedent’s treating physicians, Dr. David Lang. (Docket no. 20-5.) Dr. Lang wrote that he
received the decedent’s history from Plaintiff, and that the decedent’s “social history,” includes
“[e]ight beers per day.” (Id. at 2.) The following series of exchanges among Defense counsel
(Mr. Asmar), Plaintiff, and Plaintiff’s counsel (Ms. Trikes) occurred:
And [the document] also says “Eight beers per day.” Do you see that?
Okay. And this document says that this history is taken from you.
Ms. Trikes [Plaintiff’s counsel]: I’m going to object to form and
You can answer my question.
I see that, yes.
Okay. I had asked you whether you told someone at the hospital that your
husband drank eight beers a day, and you said no; right?
I don’t recall saying that.
Okay. So now you don’t recall saying that. That’s different than a no.
No, I did not say that. I don’t recall saying that.
“I did not say that” and “I don’t recall saying that” are two different
things. Okay. Somebody at the hospital, which appears to be Dr. Lang,
wrote down that you told him that your husband drank eight beers per day;
Ms. Trikes: I’m objecting to that; form and foundation. And that is
not a correct statement. She cannot agree that David Lang wrote
Mr. Asmar [Defendant’s counsel]: I understand your objection.
Ms. Trikes: I will not have her answer that question. It’s a trick
question. You have no proof that it was David Lang who wrote
Mr. Asmar: I’ll rephrase the question for her, then.
David Lang—it says “Dictating: David Lang.” Right?
See that on top? Okay. Flip to the next page. Do you see the top there,
“Authenticated by David Lang, D.O., on September 30, 2015.” Right?
Okay. Mr. Lang authenticated this document.
Ms. Trikes: Objection; form and foundation.
You can answer the question.
Ms. Trikes: She can’t answer that question. She can say what the
record says. I’m not going to have her vouch for a medical record.
That’s a trick question. You can ask her what the record says.
You can’t have her vouch that David Lang authenticated this.
Mr. Asmar: I understand your objection.
Ms. Trikes: No. We’re not going to go there. We’re not going to
talk about what the records do or do not say.
Mr. Asmar: Lillian [Ms. Trikes], she has an obligation to answer
Ms. Trikes: Not that question. Not that question.
Mr. Asmar: Can I speak, please?
Ms. Trikes: No. Here’s what I’m going to say first: My client is
here to answer fact questions about what she knows, personal
knowledge. She’s not sitting here to . . . answer questions
regarding a record created by somebody else. She has to talk about
personal knowledge. This isn’t going anywhere relevant, . . . and,
therefore, I’m going to stop the questioning about the information
that’s not within her personal knowledge.
Mr. Asmar: Your objection—
Ms. Trikes: We’re not going to answer those questions. We will
Mr. Asmar: I’ll ask another question, then. How about that?
Ms. Trikes: I’ll see. It has to be based on personal knowledge.
Ms. Crossley, this document, Exhibit 3, in Social History says “Eight
beers per day.” Correct?
Ms. Trikes: That is not based upon her personal knowledge.
You may answer the question.
Ms. Trikes: No, she may not.
Mr. Asmar: You’re instructing the witness not to answer the
Ms. Trikes: That’s a stupid question, and you’ve already asked her
Mr. Asmar: No.
Mr. Asmar: Lillian [Ms. Trikes], you can object to that as well, but
I want her to answer my question.
Ms. Trikes: You know what? I’m her attorney. I can read the
She’s not—it’s not based upon her personal
knowledge. Move on. You said you were going to move on.
You’re not moving on.
We’re still on Exhibit 3 here. I want you to flip to page 3 of this
document. . . . If you look at page 3, and I’m looking at number 3 there on
the top, it also says “Alcohol Abuse.” Right?
Ms. Trikes: If you’re just asking her to verify the words on the
page, that’s an improper part of this deposition. We can read.
Your attorney will stipulate that this record says that. That’s not
a— you know what?
You can answer the question, Ms. Crossley.
Ms. Trikes: Wait. What do you mean she can answer the question?
Mr. Asmar: She can read and she can answer my question.
Ms. Trikes: And that’s not a proper question for a deposition.
Move on. She can read a document, but that has nothing to do
with personal knowledge.
Mr. Asmar: I understand your objection. You’ve made it—
Ms. Trikes: You know what? We’re going to walk. You want to
call the judge. We’re going to walk. We’re not going to sit here
and read medical records into evidence through my client.
Mr. Asmar: Are you going to walk away from the dep right now?
Ms. Trikes: I sure am. Let’s go Laurie.
Mr. Asmar: . . . . I’d like to put on the record . . . that despite my
attempts to be reasonable with Ms. Trikes, she is now calling the
deposition over because I’ve asked Ms. Crossley questions
regarding medical records, and I asked her whether these medical
records state certain things, and Ms. Trikes has called the
deposition claiming that I cannot ask her these types of questions.
Ms. Trikes certainly has the ability to make objections for the
record. She does not have the right to instruct her witness to not
answer these types of questions. She only has a right to instruct a
witness not to answer questions on the basis of privilege. That is
Ms. Trikes: I have the right to call the deposition based upon
oppressiveness and harassment. Actually, it’s subterfuge, trying to
get my client to verify the accuracy of medical records. She had
no part in creating them. You’ve certainly asked her about
whether she said that statement. She answered . . . your question
on that. With that, I’m done.
(Ms. Trikes exits the deposition.)
Mr. Asmar: Let the record reflect that Ms. Trikes was yelling
throughout this deposition as to these objections. Before I began
questioning Ms. Crossley about Exhibit No. 3, Ms. Crossley—Ms.
Trikes took a break, and after the break she became extremely
heated during this deposition and has now called the deposition
off. I have told her that I will call the judge, and she said she’s
already given me a chance to call the judge and that the deposition
is now over.
(Docket no. 21-2 at 72-74, 76-80, 82-86.)1
Plaintiff and her counsel then left the deposition, and filed Plaintiff’s Motion to
Terminate or Limit Defendant’s Deposition of Plaintiff Laurie Crossley the following day.
(Docket no. 13.) Defendant filed its Motion for Sanctions approximately two weeks later.
(Docket no. 20.)
GOVERNING LAW AND ANALYSIS
Plaintiff relies upon Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(c) and 30(d)(3), which provide,
in relevant part:
(c) Examination and Cross-Examination; Record of the Examination; Objections;
(1) Examination and Cross-Examination. The examination and crossexamination of a deponent proceed as they would at trial under the Federal
Rules of Evidence, except Rules 103 and 615. . . .
(2) Objections. An objection at the time of the examination—whether to
evidence, to a party’s conduct, to the officer’s qualifications, to the
manner of taking the deposition, or to any other aspect of the deposition—
must be noted on the record, but the examination still proceeds; the
testimony is taken subject to any objection. An objection must be stated
concisely in a nonargumentative and nonsuggestive manner. A person
may instruct a deponent not to answer only when necessary to preserve a
privilege, to enforce a limitation ordered by the court, or to present a
motion under Rule 30(d)(3).
(d) Duration; Sanction; Motion to Terminate or Limit.
(3) Motion to Terminate or Limit
(A) Grounds. At any time during a deposition, the deponent or a
party may move to terminate it or limit it on the ground that it is
being conducted in bad faith or in a manner that unreasonably
annoys, embarrasses, or oppresses the deponent or party. The
motion may be filed in the court where the action is pending or the
deposition is being taken. If the objecting deponent or party so
Both parties cite additional parts of the deposition transcript. The Court reviewed the entire transcript,
and considered all of the parts cited by the parties, even if those parts are not directly quoted above.
demands, the deposition must be suspended for the time necessary
to obtain a court order.
(B) Order. The court may order that the deposition be terminated
or may limit its scope and manner as provided in Rule 26(c). If
terminated, the deposition may be resumed only by order of the
court where the action is pending.
(C) Award of Expenses. Rule 37(a)(5) applies to the award of
Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(c), (d)(3).
Defendant specifically seeks sanctions against Plaintiff or her counsel, and relies on
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(d)(2), which gives the Court the authority to award sanctions,
including “reasonable expenses and attorney’s fees incurred by any party,” against any “person
who impedes, delays, or frustrates the fair examination of the deponent.” Defendant also cites
the following Eastern District of Michigan Civility Principles:
An attorney’s conduct should be characterized at all times by personal
courtesy and professional integrity in the fullest sense of those terms.
We will not engage in any conduct during a deposition that would not be
appropriate in the presence of a judge.
We will not obstruct questioning during a deposition or object to
deposition questions unless appropriate under the applicable rules.
(Docket no. 20 at 16–17.)
The undersigned has reviewed the entire deposition transcript and finds that both parties
acted inappropriately. Plaintiff’s counsel used inappropriate language, took an excessive number
of breaks, made long-winded objections, and terminated the deposition without indicating on the
deposition record that she intended to file a Rule 30(d) motion concerning the questions she did
not believe her client should answer. Defense counsel acted in bad faith by insisting on having
Ms. Crossley read parts of the decedent’s medical record into the deposition record despite the
fact that Ms. Crossley obviously did not create the records, and despite Plaintiff’s counsel’s
repeated request that he move on and inquire into matters within Ms. Crossley’s personal
During the deposition, Ms. Crossley testified concerning her knowledge of her husband’s
alcohol use (see docket no. 21-2 at 61), and she denied making the statement to Dr. Lang that her
late husband drank eight beers per day (id. at 62). Plaintiff’s counsel permitted Defense counsel
to inquire into these matters without any disruption. The dispute only arose when Defense
counsel began asking Ms. Crossley to essentially confirm all of the information written in the
medical document prepared by Dr. Lang. (See id. at 73.) Defense counsel obviously believed
Plaintiff did make the statement to Dr. Lang that Plaintiff’s late husband drank eight beers per
day, and it appears that Defense counsel wanted Ms. Crossley to admit as such. Defense counsel
should have simply moved on to a different topic.
Defendant argues that it was proper to inquire into matters outside of Ms. Crossley’s
personal knowledge during the deposition because “lack of personal knowledge” is an
evidentiary objection for trial, and information “need not be admissible in evidence to be
discoverable.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1); see also docket no. 21 at 6. Defendant correctly defines
the scope of discovery, but it is nevertheless improper to force a deposition witness to confirm
the accuracy of medical records, or to simply have the witness read the medical records into the
deposition record, when the witness did not produce the records. Even in a deposition, there
must be an appropriate foundation for a witness’s testimony.
Defendant also argues that, in any event, it was improper for Plaintiff’s counsel to
terminate the deposition or to not allow Ms. Crossley to answer questions. Defendant argues
that, under Rule 30(c)(2), the only basis for instructing a deponent not to answer a question is if
the questions posed seek information protected by a privilege or court order, or if counsel for the
deponent states on the deposition record that she intends to file a Rule 30(d)(3) motion.
Otherwise, Defendant argues, “‘the examination still proceeds; the testimony is taken subject to
any objection.’” (Docket no. 21 at 6 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(c)(2).) The problem with
Defendant’s argument is that Plaintiff did file her Motion (docket no. 13), the day after she
terminated the deposition. Plaintiff’s counsel should have explicitly stated her intention to do so
on the deposition record; however, the Court does not find that Plaintiff’s counsel’s failure to do
so warrants sanctions, even in light of the other behavior about which Defense counsel
complains. In short, Plaintiff counsel’s conduct did not impede a “fair examination.” Fed. R.
Civ. P. 30(d)(2).
For these reasons, the Court will allow the deposition to proceed, with each party
responsible for its own fees and costs. The Court will order Defendant to limit questioning of
Plaintiff to matters within Plaintiff’s personal knowledge (which shall not include having
Plaintiff read portions of the decedent’s medical record into the deposition record), thereby
granting Plaintiff’s Motion. The Court will also grant Plaintiff’s request and order that the
deposition be limited to “relevant” matters, while noting that the scope of discovery is
traditionally quite broad and that Defendant is not limited to questioning Plaintiff concerning
matters that are “relevant” as defined by the Federal Rules of Evidence. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1);
Lewis v. ACB Bus. Servs., 135 F.3d 389, 402 (6th Cir. 1998). The Court admonishes Plaintiff’s
counsel to follow the cited civility principles in any further deposition of Plaintiff or any other
witness. The Court finds that the circumstances make an award of expenses in favor of either
party unjust. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(d)(3)(C); 37(a)(5).
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motion to Terminate or Limit
Defendant’s Deposition of Plaintiff’s Laurie Crossley [docket no. 13] is GRANTED as set forth
If Defendant wishes to continue Plaintiff’s deposition as limited by the Court,
Defendant’s counsel will properly re-notice and complete the remainder of the deposition at a
mutually convenient location, date and time within thirty (30) days of entry of this Opinion and
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant’s Motion for Sanctions under Fed. R. Civ.
P. 30(d)(2) [docket no. 20] is DENIED. Each party is responsible for their own costs and fees
associated with filing the instant motions, with Plaintiff’s first deposition, and with any
continuation of Plaintiff’s deposition.
NOTICE TO THE PARTIES
Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a), the parties have a period of fourteen days from the date
of this Order within which to file any written appeal to the District Judge as may be permissible
under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
Dated: April 19, 2017
s/ Mona K. Majzoub
MONA K. MAJZOUB
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
PROOF OF SERVICE
I hereby certify that a copy of this Opinion and Order was served upon counsel of record
on this date.
Dated: April 19, 2017
s/ Lisa C. Bartlett
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