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Malone v. Eden

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

October 10, 2017

TONYA MICHELLE MALONE, as Personal Representative of the Estate of GERARD WATSON, Deceased, Plaintiff,
v.
GARY EDEN, JACQUELINE R. FLETCHER, CRST EXPEDITED, INC. and XYZ CORP., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for Discovery Sanctions Against Defendant, CRST Expedited, Inc., filed on June 23, 2017. Doc. 84. Having considered the record, submissions of counsel, and relevant law, the Court finds the motion will be granted in part.

         I. Background

         This case arises from a fatal single-vehicle collision. On June 22, 2013, Mr. Gary Eden lost control of the tractor-trailer he was driving, crashing into a guardrail. Doc. 1-A (Compl.) ¶ 22; Doc. 84 at 1. Tragically, Plaintiff Tonya Malone's 25-year-old son, Mr. Gerard Watson, was asleep in the tractor-trailer at the time of the collision and died as a result of his injuries from the accident. Compl. ¶¶ 21, 23-24. Ms. Malone has brought suit against Mr. Eden, Jacqueline Fletcher (the owner/operator of the tractor-trailer), and CRST Expedited, Inc. (CRST) (the company with operating authority over Ms. Fletcher and the tractor-trailer).[1] See Compl.

         Ms. Malone's attorney, Mr. Mark Caruso, emailed counsel for CRST on June 17, 2016, regarding scheduling the deposition of CRST's Rule 30(b)(6) corporate representative(s). Doc. 89 at 1; see also Doc. 89-1. Mr. Caruso stated that “[w]e will specify the areas of inquiry in the deposition notice, . . . [h]owever, generally the areas of inquiry may include but are not limited to those listed below.” Doc. 89-1 at 1. Mr. Caruso then listed 29 topics of inquiry. Id. at 1-2.

         Plaintiff's attorney mailed the official Notice of Rule 30(B)(6) Video Deposition of CRST Expedited, Inc. on January 13, 2017, scheduling the deposition for February 9, 2017. See Docs. 72; 84-A. The Notice requests that CRST designate “one or more person(s) who have knowledge to testify with respect to the following matters[, ]” and lists 29 topics, all substantively identical to the June 2016 list. Doc. 84-A.

         CRST designated Mr. Charles Haffenden, vice president of safety, as its corporate representative. Doc. 85 at 3. Mr. Haffenden prepared by speaking with CRST's attorney, reviewing the Notice, refreshing his memory of the facts of the case, speaking with CRST employees, and reviewing documents. Id. (citing Doc. 85-2 at 13:23-14:7, 95:2-12, 106:11-107:15, 121:15-25). Mr. Haffenden testified that he spent approximately an hour and a half preparing for the deposition. Doc. 84-B at 14:3-7.

         Plaintiff now contends that Mr. Haffenden “came to the deposition with virtually no preparation[, ]” as evidenced by the fact that he allegedly “said ‘I don't know' or ‘I don't remember' or similar answers to [59] questions during” his three- to five-hour long deposition. Docs. 84 at 3, 9; 85 at 4. Plaintiff asserts that Mr. Haffenden was unprepared to respond to deposition questions about three broad topic areas (training, facts surrounding the accident, and DOT application) and four more discrete topic areas (other vehicle accidents, affirmative defenses, business operations/organizations, payments and compensation to or from CRST/Fletcher). Doc. 84 at 4-9.

         Specifically, Plaintiff complains that Mr. Haffenden was unable to respond to questions regarding:

(1) the specific training Ms. Fletcher received (Doc. 84 at 4 (citing Doc. 84-B at 29:3-16, 31:2-24));
(2) facts surrounding the accident, “including CRSTs position as to how and why the crash occurred, the details of the trip, and the” relationships between Fletcher, Eden, and Watson (id. at 5-7 (citing Doc. 84-B at 70:10-72:4, 78:8-15) (quotation marks omitted));
(3) the details regarding CRST's application process for DOT numbers or certificates of authority (id. at 7-8 (citing Doc. 84-B at 100:10-102:13));
(4) other accidents (id. at 8 (citing Doc. 84-B at 96:14-25, 106:9-107:16));
(5) the “facts and documents upon which” CRST bases its “contentions and set forth in affirmative defenses” (id. (citing Doc. 84-B at 70:10-72:21, 114:17-24)); and
(6) CRST's “business operations and organizations” or “payments and compensation to or from CRST and Fletcher” (id. (citing Doc. ...

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