Nester et al v. Textron, Inc. et al
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART 41 Motion to Compel; GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART 42 Motion for Protective Order to Vacate and for Attorney's Fees and Expenses; GRANTING 49 Alternative Motion to Compel designation of a proper Rule 30(b)(6) corporate representative. Signed by Judge Mark Lane. (jk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
VIRGINIA NESTER AND ROBERT
SCOTT NESTER, INDIVIDUALLY AND
AS NEXT FRIEND OF C.N. AND S.N.,
TEXTRON, INC. D/B/A E-Z-GO,
UNITED RENTALS, INC. F/K/A RSC
HOLDINGS, INC. AND/OR RSC
Cause No. A-13-CA-920-LY
ORDER ON PENDING DISCOVERY MOTIONS
On March 4, 2015, counsel for all parties appeared in person before the undersigned and
presented argument concerning Plaintiffs’ Motion to Compel Production of Documents [Clerk’s
Dkt. No. 41]; Defendants Textron, Inc.’s Motion for Protective Order and to Vacate Plaintiffs’
Notices of Intent to Take Depositions of Non-Party Aliens in the United Kingdom and Request
for Attorney’s Fees and Expenses [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 42]; Plaintiffs’ Motion in the Alternative to
Compel the Designation of a Proper 30(b)(6) Corporate Representative [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 49],
and all responses and replies thereto. The motions were referred to the undersigned United
States Magistrate Judge for resolution as to the merits pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), Rule 72 of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and Rule 1(c) of Appendix C to the Local Rules of the
United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. Having considered the briefing,
argument of the parties, applicable law, and the case file as a whole, the undersigned rules as
This case involves injuries suffered by Virginia Nester in 2011 while using a Workhorse
cart manufactured by Textron/E-Z-Go. Plaintiffs contend the cart’s “kick off brake system” was
defective as designed, causing an “unintended acceleration” that injured Ms. Nester. 1
Defendants assert the kick off brake is an industry standard and is safe for its intended uses.
Discovery has thus included inquiries relating to any incidents of “unintended acceleration” in
any other Textron/E-Z-Go vehicles using a kick off brake system.
Through discovery, Plaintiffs have learned of a 2005 fatal collision in the United
Kingdom that involved an E-Z-Go multi-passenger shuttle with a kick off brake system.
Ransomes Jacobsen, Ltd. (“RJL”), a U.K. distributor of E-Z-Go products, cooperated with a
British government safety organization, the HSE, which investigated the incident. RJL is an
indirect subsidiary of Textron, Inc. Textron personnel provided information and guidance,
including legal advice, to RJL concerning the HSE investigation.
All three of the current discovery disputes relate to Plaintiffs’ contention that they are
entitled to more information about the 2005 accident and investigation. At the hearing, the
parties agreed that Textron has supplemented its original minimal production on this issue by
providing substantial contemporaneous documentation from its indirect subsidiary, RJL.
Nevertheless, the parties dispute three issues relating to this supplemental production:
The terms “kick off brake system” and “unintended acceleration” have been specifically defined by Plaintiffs in
their discovery requests. See Pf’s Resp. to Mot. Prot. Ord. [Clerk’s Dkt. No.49], Exhibit 6 at 3. In particular, an
“unintended acceleration” is defined as “a forward acceleration of the Textron product which was not intended but
occurred as a result of the depression of the accelerator and the resultant disengagement of the park brake in the
Textron kick off brake system.” Id.
(1) Access to Privileged Communications:
Textron has withheld some of these RJL documents as privileged, a claim
which Plaintiffs challenge. See generally Pf’s Mot. Compel [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 42].
Defendants, not surprisingly, respond that the documents are clearly privileged and
they are entitled to their fees and costs in defending this motion. Df’s Resp. Mot.
Compel [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 43] at 5 and Exhibit B.
(2) Depositions Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 30 of RJL Personnel in the U.K.:
Plaintiffs seek the depositions of three RJL employees and one former
employee of RJL (the “RJL personnel”), who appear from the documents produced to
have played a role in responding to the incident. Def’s Mot. Prot. Order [Clerk’s Dkt.
No. 42] at 4-5. All of these potential witnesses are located in the United Kingdom
and employed (or formerly employed) by RJL, not Textron. Nevertheless, Plaintiffs
contend a deposition notice to Textron under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30 is
sufficient to compel the appearance of these witnesses because they were managing
agents of Textron for purposes of the 2005 accident and investigation, given their
close coordination with Textron of RJL’s response to the HSE investigation of the
incident. Pf’s Resp. Mot. Prot. Order [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 49] at 9-10.
Textron, of course, vigorously disputes that any employee of RJL had
authority to speak for Textron in the 2005 incident or at present, and asserts the only
proper means of compelling deposition of these witnesses is through the procedures
of the Hague Convention. Df’s Mot. Prot. Order [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 42] at 8. Textron
further requests an award of its fees and costs related to seeking a protective order
quashing the depositions. Id.
(3) Reconvened Deposition Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(b)(6):
As an alternative to deposing the RJL personnel, Plaintiffs seek to reconvene
the 30(b)(6) deposition of a Textron corporate representative who is adequately
prepared to testify for Textron regarding the HSE investigation.
Compel 30(b)(6) Deposition [Clerk’s Dkt. 49] at 11-12.
Pf’s Mot. To
Plaintiffs contend that
Textron unreasonably delayed its supplemental production of the RJL documents, and
Textron’s corporate representative on the issue of the 2005 accident and investigation
was unfamiliar with these RJL documents at the time of his deposition. Id. at 4.
Claiming they are entitled to depose a witness with knowledge of the 2005 accident
and investigation, Plaintiffs seek to reconvene the 30(b)(6) deposition on the subjects
of the 2005 incident and the RJL documents produced concerning the incident. Id.
At the hearing, Textron represented to the undersigned that it previously
offered to provide Jim Fisher, the original 30(b)(6) deponent, for re-deposition on the
HSE investigation. Textron represents that Mr. Fisher has now familiarized himself
with the RJL documents and is the person at Textron most knowledgeable about
Textron’s response to the 2005 HSE investigation.
As all three of these issues are entwined, the undersigned considers the facts and
circumstances surrounding all of the motions as a whole.
In the interest of clarity, the
undersigned will address each request for relief in turn.
Motion to Compel Production of Privileged Documents
The undersigned will first address Plaintiffs’ Motion to Compel the RJL documents not
already produced. Plaintiffs’ motion seeks production of eleven (11) emails, all dating from
2005, all of which are being withheld by Textron on grounds of attorney client privilege. Pf’s
Mot. Compel [Clerk’s Dkt. 41], Exhibit A. Since the filing of this Motion to Compel, Textron
has updated its privilege log to include two additional emails created in 2015, during this
ongoing litigation, over which Textron claims privilege. See “E-Z-Go a Division of Textron
Inc’s Privilege Log (Revised 03-03-2015)” (provided to the undersigned with the in camera
documents; this log is identical to Exhibit A of Pf’s Mot. Compel [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 41] with the
exception of the addition of items 12 and 13, the 2015 documents). The parties’ arguments at the
hearing encompassed alleged deficiencies in the “privilege log” as a whole. Therefore, the
undersigned will address the privileges claimed as to each of the 13 documents on the updated
Privilege Log dated 03-03-2015, and all further references to “Privilege Log” in this Order will
refer to this updated document.
All of the items on the Privilege Log assert attorney client privilege as grounds to
withhold individual email communications. Ten (10) emails, which include RJL personnel on the
distribution list, additionally claim the “”Co-Client/Joint Client Common Interest” privilege
(Privilege Log Items 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 13). Of these ten, two additionally claim work
product privilege (Privilege Log Items 7, 8). One (1) email claims attorney client privilege alone
(Privilege Log Item 3); two (2) emails claim attorney client and work product privilege
(Privilege Log Items 5, 12). Textron’s privilege log identifies the attorney involved in the
majority of these communications as Textron’s in-house counsel, John Rupp. Mr. Rupp has
provided an affidavit stating that he was contacted by Tim Landsell of RJL to provide legal
counsel to RJL relating to the 2005 HSE investigation and that he was acting as counsel to both
Textron and to RJL as joint clients during the 2005 HSE investigation. Def’s Resp. to Mot.
Compel [Dkt. No. 43], Exhibit 1, Rupp Affidavit, ¶¶ 2, 4-5.
Mr. Rupp is also an attorney included on the distribution list of several emails concerning
the HSE investigation that were produced by Textron with no claim of privilege. As it is unclear
from the privilege log how these produced communications differ from the allegedly privileged
communications with Mr. Rupp, the undersigned reviewed the 13 withheld emails in camera to
determine (1) what, if any, privileges apply and (2) whether any applicable privileges have been
waived by the disclosure of potentially related material.
A. Choice of Law Issues
“The availability of a privilege in a diversity case is governed by the law of the forum
state.” Int’l Ins. Co. v. RSR Corp., 426 F.3d 281, n.26 (5th Cir. 2005); FED. R. EVID. 501.
Therefore, in this matter, the application of the attorney client privilege, any “joint client
common interest” privilege, and any waiver of such privileges will be determined by Texas law.
See id. In contrast, federal common law governs the work product privilege. See N. Am.
Specialty Ins. Co. v. Iberville Coatings, Inc., No. 99-859, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61786, at *3
(M.D. La. Mar. 22, 2002); FED. R. CIV. P. 26(b)(3).
Does Attorney Client Privilege Apply Under Texas Law?
The question governing 10 of the 13 withheld emails is whether Texas law allows
attorney client privilege or “Co-Client/Joint Client Common Interest Privileges” to attach to
communications between the in-house counsel of a parent company and managing personnel of a
separate corporate entity.
Texas evidentiary rules define attorney client privilege as follows:
A client has a privilege to refuse to disclose and to prevent any other
person from disclosing confidential communications made for the purpose
of facilitating the rendition of professional legal services to the client:
(A) between the client or a representative of the client
and the client's lawyer or a representative of the lawyer;
(B) between the lawyer and the lawyer's representative;
(C) by the client or a representative of the client, or the
client's lawyer or a representative of the lawyer, to a
lawyer or a representative of a lawyer representing
another party in a pending action and concerning a
matter of common interest therein;
(D) between representatives of the client or between the
client and a representative of the client; or
(E) among lawyers and their representatives representing
the same client.
TEX. R. EVID. 503(b) (emphasis added).
Plaintiffs make much of a recent Texas Supreme Court case, In re XL Specialty Ins. Co.,
373 S.W.3d 46, 52 (Tex. 2012), which clarified that the “common interest” privilege set out in
Rule 503(b)(C), above, is limited to allied litigants during an ongoing litigation, and does not
protect communications between parties who are not represented by the same counsel when no
lawsuit is pending at the time the communications occurred. Id. Whether RJL and Textron
could be considered “allied litigants” with respect to the HSE investigation in 2005 is a moot
point, however, because In re XL Specialty Co. expressly does not change the long-standing
Texas law that one attorney may “simultaneously represent two or more clients on the same
matter.” Id. (citing PAUL R. RICE, ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE IN THE UNITED STATES § 4:30
As noted above, Textron’s in-house counsel, Mr. Rupp, has provided a sworn affidavit
that he was engaged to represent both RJL and Textron as joint clients during the 2005 HSE
investigation. Def’s Resp. to Mot. Compel [Dkt. No. 43], Exhibit 1, Rupp Affidavit, ¶¶ 2, 4-5.
Texas law permits such joint representation “when all clients consent and there is no substantial
risk that the lawyer's representation of one client would be materially and adversely affected by
the lawyer's duties to the other.” In re XL Specialty, 373 at 50 (citing 2 RESTATEMENT (THIRD)
LAW GOVERNING LAWYERS § 128 (2000)). Plaintiffs have pointed to no facts in the
record that would indicate a substantial risk of irreconcilable conflict in Mr. Rupp’s
representation of Textron and its subsidiary in the HSE investigation, and Mr. Rupp’s affidavit
asserts he had the consent of both Textron and RJL to provide legal counsel to both. Def’s Resp.
to Mot. Compel [Dkt. No. 43], Exhibit 1, Rupp Affidavit, ¶¶ 2, 4-5.
So long as Mr. Rupp was authorized to represent both RJL and Textron, it is black letter
Texas law that both RJL and Textron’s “communications made to the attorney for the purpose of
facilitating the rendition of legal services to the clients are privileged, except in a controversy
between the clients.” In re JDN Real Estate—McKinney L.P., 211 S.W.3d 907, 922 (Tex.
App.—Dallas 2006, pet. denied). The undersigned has reviewed all ten (10) of the emails for
which the joint client privilege is claimed and agrees that each is a communication between joint
clients and their mutual attorney. Therefore, items 1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 13 on the
Privilege Log are subject to the joint client privilege under Texas law.
As this privilege is
sufficient to justify withholding the documents, the undersigned need not consider whether any
separate “common interest” privilege applies or whether the work product privilege applies to
those joint client privileged documents for which it is claimed (7 and 8).
The remaining documents rely on single-party attorney-client privilege. Item 3 on the
Privilege Log is a strategic communication between a Textron manager and Mr. Rupp
concerning responding to the HSE investigation; it is privileged. Item 5 is an email between Mr.
Landsdale and British outside counsel hired by Mr. Landsdale on behalf of RJL. The attorney8
client privilege thus applies. See TEX. R. EVID. 503(b)(E) (illustrating that a client may hire
more than one lawyer and communicate with each of his attorneys without destroying privilege).
Item 12 is a communication between Textron’s “in-house counsel, outside counsel, inhouse counsel representative, Textron Personnel and insurance carrier representative.” Privilege
Log. Defendants have not met their burden to establish this document is protected under the
Texas attorney-client privilege; there is nothing in the privilege log or the document itself that
would show whether the insurance carrier was a joint client along with Textron, and Texas law
does not recognize a general insurer-insured privilege.
In re XL, 373 at 53-54.
communication, if protected, must fall under federal work product privilege, discussed further
2. Waiver Under Texas Law
A question brought up by Plaintiffs in the hearing, and also considered sua sponte by this
Court, is whether Textron has waived the privilege that would otherwise attach to documents
sent by or to John Rupp concerning the HSE investigation, because Textron has already
produced several communications regarding the HSE investigation that include Mr. Rupp on the
distribution list without any claim of privilege. “Generally, a party waives the attorney-client
privilege when it voluntarily discloses the privileged communication to a third party. When a
party waives the attorney-client privilege, it waives the privilege as to all communications that
pertain to the same subject matter of the waived communication.” Summit 6 LLC v. Research In
The undersigned notes that Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 193.3(c) excuses a party from noting on its privilege log
“a privileged communication . . . concerning the litigation in which the discovery is requested.” The undersigned
has determined this rule does not create a privilege, but simply refers to the procedural obligation to log material that
is privileged under other law. Because Texas rule 193.3(c) does not confer an automatic attorney-client privilege
on documents created during litigation, but is merely a procedural rule, the undersigned has determined Federal Rule
of Evidence 501 requires examination of Defendants’ claims of privilege concerning the 2015 documents noted on
its Privilege Log, notwithstanding that they were created while this litigation has been pending.
Motion Corp., No. 3-11-cv-367-O, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 95164, *41 (N.D. Tex., June 26,
2013) (citing Alldread v. City of Grenada, 988 F.2d 1425, 1434 (5th Cir. 1993); S.E.C. v. Brady,
238 F.R.D. 429, 441 (N.D. Tex. 2006)).
Item 4 on Defendants’ Privilege Log appears to have been fully produced to Plaintiffs
under the Bates Number TEXTRON 002352 and included as an exhibit by Plaintiffs in these
proceedings. 3 Consequently, Item 4 should be produced, as Defendants have waived any
privilege they might have claimed regarding this document.
The remainder of the attorney-client privileged emails listed here (Items 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8,
9, 10, 11, and 13) pertain to various drafts and edits of a final communication to the HSE, none
of which have been produced or discussed in the record provided to this Court, and internal
discussions about coordinating strategic meetings, which do not divulge any of the same content
or subject matter disclosed in the emails already produced. Therefore, the undersigned finds no
waiver of the attorney client and/or joint client privileges applicable to Items 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,
10, 11, and 13 of Defendants’ Privilege Log.
3. Work Product Privilege Under Federal Law
The document described in Item 12 of Defendants’ privilege log is a communication
informing Defendants’ insurer and outside counsel about developments in the instant case.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(3) protects from disclosure “documents and tangible
things that are prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial or by another party or its
Document TEXTRON 002352 has been included in the public record of these proceedings as part of Exhibit 11 of
Pf.’s Resp. to Mot. Prot. Order [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 49]. There is no indication by the filing party—Plaintiffs—that the
Response, Exhibit 11, or TEXTRON 002352 should be filed under seal or otherwise treated as confidential. Any
privilege Defendants could have claimed over this particular document has therefore been destroyed by their
production of it to the Plaintiffs, without any clawback request, and Plaintiffs’ inclusion of the document in the
representative (including the other party’s . . . insurer or agent).” It thus appears that Item 12
falls well within the coverage of the work product privilege under Rule 26(b)(3) and Defendants
are entitled to withhold Item 12 pursuant to federal work product privilege.
B. Defendants’ Request for Fees and Costs
As a sanction under Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Defendants seek
their fees and costs to defend their privilege log in the amount of $2,777.50. Such an award is
inappropriate here because Plaintiffs’ Motion to Compel was substantially justified. Fed. R. Civ.
P. 37(a)(5)(B). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(5), a privilege log must “describe
the nature of the documents . . . and do so in a manner that, without revealing information itself
privileged or protected, will enable other parties to assess the claim.” Defendants’ Privilege Log
in this matter simply listed the parties to an email, the date of the email, and the privilege
claimed. The generic descriptions of each email are virtually indistinguishable from each other
(e.g., compare Item 7, “Communication between Textron In-House Counsel, Textron Personnel
and other Textron related entity personnel” with Item 8, “Communication between Textron InHouse Counsel, Textron Personnel and other Textron related entity personnel.”)
Defendants’ failure to provide a log specific enough to demonstrate that a joint client relationship
existed and that the communications being withheld pursuant to this relationship were
qualitatively different from those disclosed as non-privileged, Plaintiffs’ filing of this motion
was certainly justified and is not a proper subject for sanctions.
III. Motion for Protective Order
As noted above, Plaintiffs seek to depose, via notice to Textron under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 30, three employees and one former employee of RJL (collectively, the “RJL
personnel”), a British distributor of E-Z-Go carts that is an indirect subsidiary of Textron. Mot.
Prot. Order [Clerk’s Dkt. 42], at 2 and Exhibit 1 (Depsotion Notices). On its face, Plaintiffs’
attempt to use Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30 to notice the depositions of these foreign nonparties seems to be quite a stretch. Nevertheless, the circumstances surrounding this position
give it more weight that it might otherwise carry.
It appears that Textron made multiple
representations to Plaintiffs regarding its ability to “set up” the depositions of RJL personnel,
which were described by both parties in the hearing and documented in the record. See generally
Mot. Prot. [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 42], Exhibits 5-10. These representations, coupled with Textron’s
apparent close cooperation with RJL in the documentation of the 2005 HSE Investigation, see,
e.g., Resp. Mot. Prot. Order [Clerk’s Dkt. 49] at Exhibit 11, suggested a relationship of control
by Textron over RJL—a perception Textron did little to discourage over a period of several
weeks. In these circumstances, the undersigned finds the Plaintiffs’ position regarding the
application of Rule 30 deposition notices to RJL personnel as “managing agents” of Textron is a
novel, but not unreasonable, argument for the extension of the managing agent doctrine.
For the reasons below, the undersigned declines to accept Plaintiffs’ invitation to expand
the definition of a managing agent. Nevertheless, in the interest of equity and fair play, the
undersigned requires that Textron exercise its best efforts to extend the offer of a cooperative
deposition of the RJL witnesses on the terms previously offered by Textron and RJL until at least
the March 20, 2015 deadline for the close of discovery in this matter.
Plaintiffs requested the depositions of the RJL personnel at the end of December and
beginning of January; as of January 8, 2015, counsel for Textron represented he was “beginning
the process of getting the UK depositions set up.” Mot. Prot. Order [Clerk’s Dkt. 42], Exhibit 6,
p. 1. He also disclosed that “UK counsel” would be involved. Id. Similar discussions continued
throughout January, mostly along the lines of the logistics of coordinating schedules. Id. at
Exhibits 7-10. On January 23, 2015, after expressing frustration with the continued claimed
scheduling difficulties, Plaintiffs issued Rule 30 deposition notices to Textron in an attempt to
compel the depositions. Id. at Exhibit 11. Textron responded that it had no ability to compel
these witnesses to appear, as RJL is a separate company organized under British law, and the
proper procedure for noticing such depositions would be to follow the Hague Convention
Nevertheless, the parties continued their attempts to work out voluntary depositions.
Apparently, in a conference call on February 2, 2015 that included counsel for Textron and
British counsel for RJL, an agreement was proposed that the depositions could be taken by
agreement if they proceeded under British rules, which are far more restrictive than American
deposition rules. Id. Plaintiffs made a counterproposal that the depositions should take place in
Britain under American rules, a proposal RJL and Textron rejected. Id. Having failed to reach
agreement, Defendants filed this Motion for Protective Order asserting the Hague Convention
protocols, not Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6), are the exclusive means of compelling
deposition testimony from these witnesses.
Rule 30 vs. The Hague Convention
Plaintiffs correctly assert that, when a party is subject to the personal jurisdiction of a
U.S. Court, either the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or the Hague Convention may be used to
effect discovery. Societe Nationale Industrielle Aerospatiale v. United States Dist. Court for S.
Dist., 482 U.S. 522, 544 (U.S. 1987). Under these circumstances, the trial court has broad
discretion to conduct a fact-sensitive inquiry, balancing the needs of the litigation against the
interests of international comity. Id. To that end, even where the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure are potentially applicable to a foreign party, “American courts, in supervising pretrial
proceedings, should exercise special vigilance to protect foreign litigants from the danger that
unnecessary, or unduly burdensome, discovery may place them in a disadvantageous position.”
Id. at 546.
Notably, the only basis Plaintiffs have proposed for the application of the Federal Rules
(or this Court’s jurisdiction) to the proposed U.K. deponents is that they are allegedly managing
agents of Textron. Pf.’s Resp. to Mot. Prot. Order [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 49] at 8. There is no
suggestion that any of the individual proposed deponents, who reside in the United Kingdom, are
subject to personal jurisdiction in the Western District of Texas. Nor is there any evidence in the
record that RJL, a British distributor, manufactures or sells any products in the United States or
otherwise has any contacts that would subject it to the personal jurisdiction of this Court. See
Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 131 S.Ct. 2846, 2852 (2011) (finding that
although parent company was subject to the personal jurisdiction of an American court, its
foreign subsidiaries had no contacts with the US, such as manufacturing, sales, advertising, or
business operations, that would justify personal jurisdiction in the trial court).
Thus, the first inquiry is whether the four proposed deponents can be considered
managing agents of Textron for purposes of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30. If they are
managing agents, the balancing test described in Societe Nationale, 482 U.S. at 544, must be
applied to balance the interests of the litigants versus the interests of a sovereign nation in
protecting its citizens from foreign discovery that might not be available under that nation’s own
laws. If the deponents are not managing agents of Textron, then no basis has been shown for
applying the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to non-party citizens of a foreign country, and the
deposition notices are of no effect. In re Yasmin and Yaz, MDL No. 2100, 2011 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 9623 (S.D. Ill. Aug. 18, 2011).
1. What is a “Managing Agent” for Purposes of a Rule 30 Notice?
An individual does not qualify as a managing agent of a Defendants company “simply by
virtue of the fact that he is an officer of [a subsidiary company].” Newmarkets Partners, LLC v.
Sal. Oppenheim Jr. & Cie. S.C.A., No. 08 Civ. 04213 (WHP) (THK), 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
43435, *3-4 (S.D.N.Y. May 22, 2009). However, the test for what does make a managing agent
is fact sensitive and evolving; as counsel for Textron pointed out at the hearing, courts have been
known to describe the federal common law that has developed around the “managing agent”
concept as “sketchy.” See, e.g., Jackson v. Stevens Transp., Inc., No. 3:14-cv-1416-M, 2015
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5318, *6 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 15, 2015) (quoting Founding Church of Scientology
of Washington, D.C. v. Webster, 802 F.2d 1448, 1451, 256 U.S. App. D.C. 54 (D.C. Cir. 1986)).
Plaintiffs suggest that the high degree of control exercised by Textron over the employees
of RJL with regard to the 2005 accident and investigation is dispositive of the issue. Resp. to
Mot. Prot. Order [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 49] at 9-10. However, the “control” test that appears in other
discovery contexts, such as whether a document is in the “possession or control” of a party, has
no place in the managing agent inquiry. Ethypharm SA France v. Abbott Labs., 271 F.R.D. 82,
90 (D. Del. 2010). Rather, the factors that have typically been relied on by trial courts to
determine whether an individual qualifies as a managing agent of a party for purposes of a
deposition under Federal Rule 30 include the following:
[whether] the individual involved is invested by the corporation with
general powers to exercise his discretion and judgment in dealing with
corporate matters, whether he or she can be depended upon to carry out
the employer's direction to give testimony at the demand of a party
engaged in litigation with the employer, and whether he or she can be
expected to identify with the interests of the corporation rather than with
those of the other parties.
Jackson, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5318, 6-8 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 15, 2015) (citing 8A CHARLES
ALAN WRIGHT, ARTHUR R. MILLER & RICHARD L. MARCUS, FED. PRAC. & PROC. § 2103
(3d ed.) and collecting cases).
In recent decisions on the "managing agent" issue, the courts have given particular
emphasis to the importance of the employee's responsibilities "with respect to the subject
matter of the litigation." Bianco v. Globus Med., Inc., No. 2:12-CV-00147-WCB, 2014
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28464, *6 (E.D. Tex. Mar. 6, 2014) (emphasis added) (collecting
cases). For example, in November of 2014, a U.S. trial court hearing a design defect case
found that three Chinese employees of a U.S.-based Defendants corporation were
“managing agents” subject to a Rule 30 deposition notice, because: (1) the three
deponents had extensive discretion and judgment regarding the design of the challenged
product, (2) their interests as direct employees of the Defendants and designers of the
challenged product were aligned with the Defendants’, and (3) their employment
relationship and aligned interests made them reliable deponents who could be expected to
testify at the Defendants’ request. Averkamp v. Swimways Corp., No. 13-C-473, 2014
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160793, *5-6 (E.D. Wis., Nov. 17, 2014).
In contrast, where the proposed deponent does not have a direct employee
relationship with the Defendants company and does not have responsibility relating
directly to the subject matter of the lawsuit, it is much more difficult to find him aligned
with the company’s interests in such a way that he can be expected to speak for the
company as a “managing agent.” Jackson, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5318 at *13-14. In
the recent Jackson case, the proposed managing agent was an independent contractor
whose general duties included training drivers for the Defendants company. Id. The
Defendants was being sued because one of its drivers had allegedly attacked someone
while on the job.
The Court found that the independent contractor could not
reasonably be a “managing agent” for the Defendants company because (1) he had no
role in making training policy and had played no role in training or supervising the
specific employee at issue; (2) he was not directly employed by the company and the
company could not order him to testify; and (3) “the Court cannot point to any facts that
support a finding that Mr. Spratling can be expected to identify with Defendants’ interests
as opposed to Plaintiffs’ in connection with Plaintiffs’ allegations regarding his attack by
Mr. Carter or Mr. Carter's training on workplace violence policies” Id. at *14.
a. RJL Personnel Are Not Rule 30 Managing Agents
Applying the few common principles evident in the widely varied case law on this issue,
it simply makes no sense to find that the RJL personnel are “managing agents” of Textron for
purposes of discovery in this case. As a threshold matter, RJL personnel could be managing
agents, if at all, only with respect to the events of 2005, not with respect to any facts of the
With regard to the 2005 incident, there is no evidence any of the RJL
personnel had direct responsibility for the design or manufacture of the kick off brake at issue,
and there is no evidence the RJL personnel spoke or acted on behalf of Textron, rather than RJL,
in responding to the investigation. Regarding any possible Rule 30 deposition in this case, there
is no evidence Textron can effectively direct the witnesses to testify on its behalf, and there is no
evidence that the RJL personnel could now be expected to identify with Textron’s position
regarding the safety of the kick off brake system. See Jackson, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5318 at
i. Deponents Could Only Be Managing Agents As to 2005 Matter
The undersigned finds the RJL personnel were not managing agents of Textron with
respect to any facts of the Nesters’ current case. What Plaintiffs contend is that the RJL
personnel are managing agents of Textron as to the issue of Textron’s knowledge of and
response to the 2005 accident and investigation in the U.K, which is an issue relevant to the
Nesters’ current case. Pf’s Resp. Mot. Prot. Order [Clerk’s Dkt. 49] at 6.
As a threshold matter, the parties have not cited, and the undersigned is not aware of any
case law holding that a person can speak as a managing agent for a corporation in a lawsuit in
2015 based on his role in an unrelated incident in 2005. The cases examined by the undersigned
uniformly query whether the deponent’s interests and responsibilities are aligned with the
Defendants’ in this litigation, not in a long-past event involving unrelated parties and claims.
See, e.g., Jackson 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5318 at *6-11 (collecting cases); Bianco, 2014 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 28464 at *5-9 (collecting cases).
The practical difficulty of a doctrine recognizing a perpetual, issue-specific managing
agent is well-illustrated by the facts of this case. Even assuming RJL personnel worked hand in
glove with Textron in 2005 to address an accident regarding an E-Z-Go shuttle with a kick off
brake system, Textron’s counsel represents that RJL no longer sells the type of E-Z-Go product
that was at issue in that 2005 accident in the U.K. Further, counsel represents Tim Landsell, the
RJL employee whose name appears on most communications regarding the 2005 HSE
investigation, no longer works for RJL. Thus, even limiting the subject of the managing agent
relationship to the 2005 accident and investigation, it seems doubtful that the 2015 version of
RJL and its individual personnel would have the kind of knowledge, alignment of interest, and
discretionary input into relevant matters expected of a managing agent.
No Evidence Any Proposed Deponent Was Ever a Managing Agent
Even supposing, as Plaintiffs contend, that a person can be deposed as a managing agent
as to a particular issue whether the deposition takes place in the active dispute or an earlier,
unrelated one, the record contains little evidence establishing that any of the deponents were
managing agents of Textron with regard to the 2005 accident and HSE investigation.
Plaintiffs have appended unauthenticated internet “bios” of their proposed deponents that
include hearsay advertising copy regarding the individuals’ roles and RJL’s role in the
Textron/E-Z-Go corporate family. See Pf’s Resp. Mot. Prot. Order [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 49] at
Exhibits 7-10. Though not objected to by Defendants, the evidentiary value of these materials is
limited. Plaintiffs substantively rely, however, on the contemporaneous emails written by or sent
to the proposed deponents concerning the accident and investigation in 2005. Id. at Exhibit 11.
Plaintiffs contend this correspondence shows a level of control by Textron concerning the
information communicated by RJL to the HSE investigators that indicates the proposed
deponents were acting as managing agents of Textron with respect to the HSE investigation. Id.
at 9-10. As noted above, however, “control” is not the issue. Ethypharm SA France, 271 F.R.D.
at 90. Far more important are factors such as the degree of relevant responsibility held by the
individual and the degree of alignment of interest that can reasonably be expected between the
individual and the Defendants regarding the issues in the current lawsuit.
See Jackson, 2015
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5318 at *13-14. These factors weigh heavily against any finding that RJL’s
personnel were managing agents of Textron in 2005 or could testify as managing agents of
Textron in 2015.
First, RJL is a distributor—not a designer or manufacturer of any product containing a
kick off brake.
See Pf’s Resp. Mot. Prot. Order [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 49], Exhibit 11, at
TEXTRON002289. There is no evidence in the record to suggest that any RJL employee had
significant corporate responsibility for the design, manufacture, or safer-alternative-design
analysis of the product at issue in the 2005 dispute. Rather, the emails included in Exhibit 11
tend to establish that the employees of RJL, the seller, had no technical expertise regarding the
design or the manufacture of the product at issue and little or no authority to speak for Textron,
the manufacturer, on these issues. See generally Exhibit 11. RJL was certainly not acting as a
decision-maker for Textron on any of the issues relating to the 2005 accident. Id. Thus, unlike
the Chinese employees who were managing agents in Averkamp, there is no evidence the RJL
personnel had discretion and judgment regarding the design of the challenged product. 2014
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160793 at *5-6. They are far more like the independent contractor in Jackson,
who had no direct responsibility for any of the training or policies at issue and therefore was not
a managing agent with respect to those issues. 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5318 at *13-14.
Second, though the interests of Textron and RJL were largely aligned, the employees of
RJL involved in the UK investigation were acting in the interests of RJL as an independent
company, not as agents of Textron. For example, as noted in the discussion of the privilege log
in Section II, above, RJL manager Tim Landsdale engaged not only Textron’s in-house counsel,
but independent British counsel, with whom he had discussions concerning RJL’s potential
liability that did not include Textron personnel. RJL also discussed plans to put further orders
for similar models from Textron “on hold in the UK” as a result of the HSE investigation. Id. at
TEXTRON002301. These actions demonstrate RJL was acting on its own behalf, not as an
agent of Textron, with regard to the response to the 2005 accident and investigation.
Finally, though RJL has indicated it may be open to agreed depositions, Textron has
stated (and the apparent extended attempt to “coordinate schedules” for the deponents may
illustrate), that Textron has no ability to compel the witnesses to testify at its behest. More
importantly, on this record, there is no basis to assume that any of the RJL personnel can be
“expected to identify with Defendants’ interests as opposed to Plaintiffs’” in connection with the
relevant issues in this suit—the safety of the kick off brake system as designed and manufactured
by Defendants. Jackson, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5318 at *14. Under these circumstances, there
is simply no basis to find any of the proposed deponents are managing agents of Textron for any
purpose relevant to this lawsuit.
2. The Hague Convention and Equitable Relief
Defendants are correct that the Hague Convention provides the only proper means of
compelling testimony from the RJL personnel in this case. See In re Yasmin and Yaz, 2011 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 9623 at *5-6 (S.D. Ill. Aug. 18, 2011) (“ordering an entity to produce a nonemployee seems particularly problematic when the witness is not a U.S. citizen and is employed
by a foreign entity that does not manufacture or sell its products in the United States.”). The
undersigned notes, however, that Defendants represented to Plaintiffs for several weeks that they
would “set up” the “U.K. Depositions.” Mot. Prot. Order [Clerk’s Dkt. 42], Exhibit 6, p. 1.
While Defendants did explain that RJL was a “separate foreign company and we must go
through channels to get [the depositions] all set up,” Mot. Prot. Order [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 42],
Exhibit 9, it appears they omitted to state that RJL was not subject to Textron’s control until after
Plaintiffs issued Rule 30 deposition notices to Textron on January 23, 2015. Id. at Exhibit 1, p.
3; Exhibit 2A, p.1.
Plaintiffs have been seeking depositions of RJL personnel for over two months now. The
discovery period in this matter is scheduled to end on March 20, 2015. Scheduling Order
[Clerk’s Dkt. No. 16].
Defendants’ representation that it could “set up” the depositions
reasonably caused Plaintiffs to refrain from initiating procedures under the Hague Convention to
obtain these depositions, and it is doubtful that such procedures could be completed within the
agreed time frame for discovery now. Therefore, in the interest of equity, the undersigned orders
Textron to hold open the most recent offer made by Textron and RJL concerning cooperative
depositions (i.e., depositions taken pursuant to U.K. rules, at a location convenient to the witness,
with all protections that would have applied if the witnesses had been served pursuant to the
Hague Convention), see Def.’s Mot. Prot. Order [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 42], Exhibit 2A, Letter of
January 28, 2015, until at least the close of discovery pursuant to the Scheduling Order [Clerk’s
Dkt. No. 16]. The Court further orders Textron to make good faith efforts to coordinate and
schedule cooperative depositions of the RJL personnel before the close of discovery pursuant to
the terms of this offer, if desired by Plaintiff. If Textron is unable, after good faith efforts, to
obtain RJL’s consent to hold its most recent cooperative discovery offer open, the parties are
ordered to confer and submit amended agreed proposed dates for the close of discovery that
would allow reasonable time for Plaintiffs to complete the depositions using Hague Convention
procedures, if desired by the Plaintiffs.
3. Attorney’s Fees and Costs Are Not Appropriate
Textron has, again, requested its attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in seeking this
Protective Order. For the reasons discussed in Section III.B.2, above, concerning equitable
relief, an award of fees and costs is inappropriate here. Defendants’ supplementation of their
discovery responses with RJL documents, coupled with Defendants’ representations that Textron
would “set up” the “U.K. depositions,” contributed to Plaintiffs’ reasonable impression that RJL
was subject to Textron’s control and its managers could be deposed pursuant to Rule 30.
Plaintiffs’ position that, in the alternative, RJL’s personnel were managing agents of Textron for
purposes of the 2005 accident and investigation is novel, but not unreasonable. The sanction of
fees and costs is not warranted here.
Motion for Reconvened 30(b)(6) Deposition
Plaintiffs contend Textron’s untimely supplementation of the RJL emails and the fact that
Textron’s corporate representative was himself unfamiliar with these documents necessitate a
second 30(b)(6) deposition on the issue of the 2005 accident and investigation. The undersigned
is inclined to agree.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6) requires a corporate representative designated
on a particular topic to “testify about information known or reasonably available to the
organization” concerning that topic. It is undisputed that Mr. Fisher was designated to testify as
Textron’s corporate representative on topics including the 2005 accident and investigation. See
Pf’s Mot. Compel 30(b)(6) Representative [Clerk’s Dkt. 49] at Exhibit 6. It is further undisputed
that: (1) Plaintiffs requested documents concerning the 2005 accident and investigation several
months before this deposition; (2) Defendants announced the existence of supplemental
documentation from their subsidiary, RJL, at least a week prior to Mr. Fisher’s deposition; and
(3) Defendants did not produce any relevant materials until the actual start of the deposition. Id.
Textron represented at the hearing that there were multiple logistical reasons for the delay
in production. While the undersigned takes Textron’s explanation of its good faith efforts at face
value, the fact remains that not only was Plaintiffs’ counsel unable to review the documents prior
to the deposition, but Mr. Fisher testified in his deposition that he had been unable to review
them, as well. Id. at Exhibit 4, p. 238. Moreover, Mr. Fisher claimed he could not remember
key details regarding the issues covered in those documents, because so much time had passed.
Id. at 234-235. As it is Textron’s burden to produce a witness who is able to testify on the
information reasonably available to the organization, and Mr. Fisher was clearly unprepared to
do so, the Court concludes Textron failed to meet its obligations under Rule 30(b)(6). Resolution
Trust Corp. v. S. Union Co., Inc., 985 F.2d 196, 197 (5th Cir. 1993).
As noted above, however, Textron explained at the hearing that the delay in producing
the documents was related in large part to various unavoidable logistical difficulties—not any
intent to withhold information from Plaintiffs or evade its duties under Rule 30(b)(6). The Court
finds no monetary sanction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 is appropriate in these
circumstances for the following reasons:
Textron acted in good faith to supplement its discovery responses by
contacting its U.K. subsidiary, RJL, to obtain the relevant documents, and had
little control over the timing of RJL’s response;
Textron has already offered Plaintiffs the opportunity to redepose Mr. Fisher
on the issues contained in the late-produced discovery; and
Textron has represented to the Court that Mr. Fisher has now had the
opportunity to read these materials and refresh his memory of events, and is
the Textron representative most knowledgeable about the 2005 accident and
Nevertheless, in view of the upcoming discovery deadline and in recognition of the fact
that Textron’s logistical difficulties have significantly inconvenienced Plaintiffs, the Court will
require that the reconvened Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of Mr. Fisher take place in Austin, Texas
(or another location convenient to Plaintiffs) on or before March 20, 2015 (unless otherwise
mutually agreed by the parties).
In accordance with the foregoing, it is hereby ORDERED that:
Plaintiffs’ Motion to Compel Production of Documents [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 41] is DENIED
in PART and GRANTED in PART.
Defendants are ORDERED to produce Item 4 on Defendants’ Privilege Log
within five (5) business days of the entry of this Order.
Plaintiffs’ Motion to Compel is DENIED with respect to Items 1-3 and 5-13 on
Defendants’ Privilege Log.
Defendants’ request for fees and costs in connection with this Motion is DENIED.
Defendants Textron, Inc.’s Motion for Protective Order and to Vacate Plaintiffs’ Notices
of Intent to Take Depositions of Non-Party Aliens in the United Kingdom and Request for
Attorney’s Fees and Expenses [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 42] is GRANTED in PART and DENIED in
Defendants’ Motion for Protective Order is GRANTED. It is ORDERED that
Plaintiffs’ Notices of Intent to Take the Depositions of Richard Tyrell, Rupert
Price, Richard Comely, and Tim Lansdell are hereby QUASHED and
Defendants are ORDERED to use their best efforts to facilitate cooperative
depositions of Richard Tyrell, Rupert Price, Richard Comely, and Tim Lansdell
on the terms most recently offered by Textron and its subsidiary, Ransomes
Jacobsen, Ltd. (RJL) (i.e., depositions taken pursuant to U.K. rules, at a location
convenient to the witness, with all protections that would have applied if the
witnesses had been served pursuant to the Hague Convention), on or before the
close of discovery on March 20, 2015.
If Defendants cannot obtain consent from RJL, despite good faith efforts, to
continue to offer cooperative depositions on these terms, the parties shall
cooperate to determine an amended discovery cutoff that will reasonably
accommodate the use of Hague Convention procedures to obtain the depositions
of Richard Tyrell, Rupert Price, Richard Comely, and Tim Lansdell, if desired by
Defendants’ request for fees and costs in connection with this Motion is DENIED.
Plaintiffs’ Alternative Motion to Compel the Designation of a Proper 30(b)(6)
Representative [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 49] is GRANTED.
On or before March 20, 2015 (unless another time period is agreed to by all
parties), Defendants are ORDERED to produce Mr. Jim Fisher as the 30(b)(6)
Corporate Representative for Textron for deposition in Austin, Texas, or any
other location selected as convenient by Plaintiff.
Mr. Fisher shall be prepared to answer questions relating to Topics 71-73 and 77
of his 30(b)(6) Designation (as modified by this Court’s Order of December 5,
2014 [Clerk’s Dkt. No. 28]).
Mr. Fisher shall be prepared to answer questions relating to Textron’s production
of documents provided by its subsidiary, RJL, concerning Topics 71-73 and 77.
Each party shall bear its own fees and costs relating to the continuation of this
Rule 30(b)(6) deposition.
So ORDERED this the 9th day of March, 2015.
United States Magistrate Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?