Belville et al v. Ford Motor Company
MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER granting in part and denying in part Plaintiffs' 847 MOTION to Compel the Continued Deposition of Paul Szuszman; Plaintiffs are granted leave to continue the fact witness deposition of Mr. Szuszman, but are limited to four (4) additional hours rather than the seven (7) hours requested; directing the parties to promptly meet and confer as to a convenient date and location for the conclusion of the deposition. Signed by Magistrate Judge Cheryl A. Eifert on 1/23/2017. (cc: counsel of record) (jsa)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA
CHARLES JOHNSON, et al.,
Case No.: 3:13-cv-06529
FORD MOTOR COMPANY,
MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER
Pending is Plaintiffs’ Motion to Compel the Continued Deposition of Paul
Szuszman. (ECF No. 847). Defendant Ford Motor Company (“Ford”) filed a
memorandum in opposition to the proposed continuation, (ECF No. 859), and Plaintiffs
replied. (ECF No. 863). On January 13, 2017, the undersigned conducted a hearing on the
motion and took the matter under advisement in order to fully examine the prior
deposition testimony of Mr. Szuszman given in his personal capacity. Having considered
the testimony and the arguments of counsel, the Court GRANTS, in part, and DENIES,
in part, Plaintiffs’ motion. Plaintiffs are granted leave to continue the fact witness
deposition of Mr. Szuszman, but are limited to four (4) additional hours rather than
the seven (7) hours requested.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(d) provides a presumptive time limit of seven hours for the taking
of a deposition in any civil action. This limit may be extended by stipulation or order of
the court. Additional time must be permitted consistent with Rule 26(b)(1) and (2) “if
needed to fairly examine the deponent or if the deponent, another person, or any other
circumstance impedes or delays the examination.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(d)(1). The party
seeking to extend the examination “is expected to show good cause to justify such an
order.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(d) advisory committee’s note to 2000 amendment. When
determining whether the moving party has demonstrated good cause, the court should
consider and weigh a variety of factors, such as: (1) the complexity of the case; (2) the
proportionality of the proposed discovery in the context of discovery already completed;
(3) the cumulative or duplicative nature of the testimony sought; (4) the burden to the
witness and parties; (5) whether the deposition covers events occurring over a long period
of time; and (6) whether the discovery sought to be obtained in the deposition can be
gleaned from some other source that is less expensive, less burdensome, and more
convenient. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(d)(1); also Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(d) advisory committee’s
note to 2000 amendment. The court must consider motions to extend the seven-hour
limit imposed by Rule 30(d) on a case-by-case basis, as no two cases will be entirely alike.
In this case, Plaintiffs assert that there is good cause to extend the seven-hour limit.
They contend that Mr. Szuszman is a critical witness; indeed, Ford identified Mr.
Szuszman as one of only two individuals possessing knowledge of issues involving the
electronic throttle control system in the subject vehicles. Moreover, many of Ford’s
witnesses deferred to Mr. Szuszman as being the individual more knowledgeable about
the architecture and design of the electronic throttle control system and the brake over
accelerator function. Plaintiffs add that Mr. Szuszman’s knowledge is highly technical and
covers a number of years, making it impossible to obtain in seven hours all of the critical
information known to Mr. Szuszman. Plaintiffs claim that extending Mr. Szuszman’s
deposition would be proportional to the needs of the case, considering the complexity of
the issues, and, given his central role to the matters in dispute, the most efficient way to
obtain the remaining information.
In contrast, Ford argues that, for many reasons, extending Mr. Szuszman’s
deposition would be burdensome and unfair, as well as disproportional to the needs of
the case. As an example, Ford points out that Mr. Szuszman was already deposed two full
days as a corporate designee under Rule 30(b)(6) and then testified for another eight
hours in his personal capacity. Ford contends that Plaintiffs have had ample opportunity
to ask Mr. Szuszman all of the questions pertinent to his role as a powertrain engineer;
however, Plaintiffs meandered at the third deposition and strayed from the issues that
they had identified as key prior to the outset of Mr. Szuszman’s testimony. Ford also notes
that this Court limited Mr. Szuszman’s deposition to seven hours in a September 2015
order. Consequently, Plaintiffs knew in advance the limitations associated with Mr.
Szuszman’s deposition and should have been better prepared to work within the confines
of the Court’s order. Ford adds that Plaintiffs should not be rewarded for failing to comply
with the Court’s reasonable restrictions on discovery.
At first blush, Ford’s arguments appeared compelling. Clearly, Mr. Szuszman has
testified on multiple occasions in this case; albeit twice at Ford’s choice. Furthermore,
Plaintiffs have been given considerable latitude in conducting discovery. However, after
reviewing Mr. Szuszman’s deposition transcript and weighing the various factors, the
undersigned concludes that Plaintiffs have shown good cause for an additional four hours
of testimony from Mr. Szuszman. This case covers a decade of information and involves
numerous vehicle models. Much of the document production consists of highly technical
material. Mr. Szuszman has been identified by Ford and its employees as an individual
with specialized and wide-ranging knowledge about the electronic throttle control system
and its evolution. Accordingly, allowing Plaintiffs to complete Mr. Szuszman’s deposition
would be the most convenient and least burdensome way of obtaining the information
sought by Plaintiffs. While Plaintiffs may arguably have asked some unnecessary or overly
technical questions at Mr. Szuszman’s deposition, for the most part, the questioning was
focused and relevant. Plaintiffs did inquire regarding some of the key issues identified in
advance of the deposition, but simply did not have an opportunity to complete their
Nonetheless, the undersigned is cognizant of the burden on Mr. Szuszman and
Ford in disrupting Mr. Szuszman’s regular business duties for a continuation of his
deposition. In addition, when considering the topics that remain to be explored, Plaintiffs
should be able to obtain all necessary information in significantly less than seven hours.
For that reason, Plaintiffs shall be limited to four additional hours of testimony.
Reasonably in advance of the continuation of the deposition, Plaintiffs should consider
providing Mr. Szuszman with any documents Plaintiffs intend to address at the
deposition, so that he can be prepared to discuss them. The parties are ORDERED to
promptly meet and confer as to a convenient date and location for the conclusion of the
The Clerk is instructed to provide a copy of this Memorandum Opinion and Order
to counsel of record.
ENTERED: January 23, 2017
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