Pinson v. Northern Tool & Equipment Company, Inc. et al
ORDER granting in part and denying in part 89 Motion to Compel; granting 93 Motion to Extend Deadline. Signed by Magistrate Judge Michael T. Parker on October 24, 2012. (KM)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF MISSISSIPPI
Civil Action No. 3:10cv621-TSL-MTP
NORTHERN TOOL & EQUIPMENT
COMPANY, INC., ET AL.
THIS MATTER is before court on the Emergency Motion  to Compel the Deposition
of Diane Pinson and the Second Motion  to Extend the Expert Designation Deadline filed by
Defendants. Having considered the submissions of the parties and the applicable law, the court
finds that the Motion  to Compel should be granted in part and denied in part and that the
Motion  to Extend the Expert Deadline should be granted.
In their Motion , Defendants complain of Plaintiff’s counsel’s conduct during
Plaintiff’s deposition on October 17, 2012, claiming that counsel implemented a strategy of
making improper, frivolous and obstructive speaking objections to virtually every substantive
question. Defendants seek an order granting the following relief: (1) compelling Plaintiff Diane
Pinson to re-appear for her deposition prior to the Defendants’ expert designation deadline; (2)
overruling Plaintiff’s counsel’s improper speaking objections; (3) directing Plaintiff’s counsel to
refrain from making any further obstructive or speaking objections; and (4) awarding Defendants
reasonable costs, expenses, and attorneys’ fees.
Plaintiff denies the allegations in the motion, claiming her counsel never coached her or
instructed her not to answer. Plaintiff states she has no objection to the resumption of the
deposition at a mutually convenient date. Plaintiff requests reasonable costs, expenses, and
attorneys’ fees incurred in responding to Defendants’ “frivolous” motion.
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide that “[t]he examination and
cross- examination of a deponent proceed as they would at trial under the Federal Rules of
Evidence . . . .” Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(c)(1). “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.” Fed. R. Civ. P.
30(c)(2). “An objection must be stated concisely in a nonargumentative and nonsuggestive
manner.” Id. Objections should generally be limited to the form of a question or the
responsiveness of an answer. Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(d) Advisory Committee's Note, 1993
amendments; see also In re Neurontin Antitrust Litig., MDL Docket No. 1479, Master Civil
Action No. 02-1390(FSH), 2011 WL 253434, at *12 (D.N.J. Jan. 25, 2011) (citing Mazzeo v.
Gibbons, Civ. No. 08-1387, 2010 WL 3020021, at *2 (D.Nev. July 27, 2010)) (observing that
“objections should be concise, non-argumentative, and non-suggestive, and hence . . . counsel
should not (1) make speaking, coaching or suggestive objections; (2) coach or change the
witness's own words to form a legally convenient record; (3) frustrate or impede the fair
examination of a deponent during the deposition by, for example, making constant objections
and unnecessary remarks; (4) make speaking objections such as "if you remember," "if you
know," "don't guess," "you've answered the question," and "do you understand the question"; or
(5) state that counsel does not understand the question”).
Counsel “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).” Id. “The court may impose an appropriate sanction--including the reasonable
expenses and attorney's fees incurred by any party--on a person who impedes, delays, or
frustrates the fair examination of the deponent.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(d)(2); see also Fed. R. Civ.
The court has reviewed the submissions of the parties, including the deposition transcript
and the entire video of the deposition. At the beginning of the deposition, the parties and their
counsel stipulated that all objections, except as to the form of the question, were reserved until
such time as the deposition, or any part thereof, may be used or is sought to be used in evidence.
See Ex. A to Motion [89-1] at 4. Despite this stipulation, a review of the transcript reveals that
Plaintiff’s counsel’s objections, which included speaking objections, were indeed disruptive,
obstructed the proceedings, and caused unnecessary delay.
For example, the following exchanges ensued:
Q. Had you ever had any training with scaffolds with how to use them?
MR. ADCOCK: We object to the form. I don't know what kind of training you
are talking about. You know, if you -- you know, the question is abstract.
Unless you understand what he's talking about.1
Q. On this particular scaffold, the way it works, what did you understand at the
time of the accident, if anything, about what could happen if the pins were not
MR. ADCOCK: Well, again, I object. She said that the only thing that was on the
scaffold was unlock and lock.
BY MR. MONTGOMERY:
Q. What if it was not properly locked, what did you -- did you understand at the
time the danger of it being not properly locked?
A. I knew it was locked.
See Ex. A to Motion [89-1] at 19-20.
Q: I'm asking you: At the time of the accident –
A. Yes, sir.
Q. -- what was your appreciation for what could happen to somebody, if they are
standing on the scaffold and that piece is not properly locked?
MR. ADCOCK: Objection. Calls for speculation on the part of the witness.
MR. MONTGOMERY: How?
MR. ADCOCK: She doesn't -MR. MONTGOMERY: I'm asking her what she understood on the day of the
MR. ADCOCK: She had used the -- She had used the scaffold. She said she made
sure it was locked. And she never had any problem before this collapse. So it calls
for -- That question calls on the witness to speculate. It never had been unlocked
that she knew about to this day when she's been using it.2
After this exchange, Mr. Montgomery repeated this same question several times, and Plaintiff’s
counsel continued to object. This exchange continued for quite a while, as exhibited by the next
nine pages of the transcript, including a break where the transcript was read off the record, and
Plaintiff never answered the question. Id. at 26-35. Indeed, Plaintiff stated that she was “so
nervous, [she was] shaking all over,” and requested a break. Id. at 35. Soon after, the deposition
was adjourned at the suggestion of the Defendants in order to get the issues before the court.
The court finds that Plaintiff shall re-appear for deposition at a mutually agreed date and
time on or before November 9, 2012. Counsel for the parties are directed to conduct themselves
in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Uniform Civil Rules.
See Ex. A to Motion [89-1] at 26-27. These are just a few examples. There are a number
of other examples in the record where it appears that counsel for Plaintiff was suggesting that the
client should not attempt to answer the question or where counsel attempted to answer the question
or to seek clarification of a question that appeared to be clear to the witness and to the court. See
Id. at 21:22-25; 24:19-24; 25:11-15; 26:6-8; 30:13-14; 33:3-6; 35:8-9.
Future disruptive conduct and speaking objections will not be permitted and will result in the
imposition of sanctions as provided under the rules. See Bordelon Marine, Inc. v. F/V KENNY
BOY, Nos. 09–3209, 09–6221, 2011 WL 164636, at *3-*6 (E.D. La. Jan. 19, 2011) (imposing
sanctions on counsel pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(d)(2) for improper conduct during a
deposition). As the deposition covered little ground and consisted mostly of disputes among
counsel, the time spent in taking it thus far will not count towards the total time allotted for
Plaintiff’s deposition. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(d)(1).
Finally, in her Response , Plaintiff requests that the court instruct Defendants to
cooperate with her requests to provide dates they can make their representatives available for
depositions. The court is confident that the parties will confer in good faith and agree on dates
for the Defendants’ corporate depositions without the need for court intervention. If not, the
court will address the issue upon appropriate motion accompanied by the attorneys’ good faith
certificate as required by L.U.Civ.R. 37(a). Accordingly,
IT IS, THEREFORE, ORDERED:
That the Defendants’ Emergency Motion  to Compel the Deposition of Diane
Pinson is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part with each party to bear its own
costs and fees. The court, in its discretion, declines to impose sanctions at this
time, but will do so if the speaking objections and disruptive conduct continues.
That the Defendants’ Second Motion  to Extend the Expert Designation
Deadline is granted. Defendants’ expert designation deadline is hereby extended
to November 19, 2012.
Plaintiff shall reappear for deposition on or before November 9, 2012, at a time
and date to be agreed upon by the parties.
SO ORDERED this the 24th day of October, 2012.
s/ Michael T. Parker
United States Magistrate Judge
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