A Cautionary Tale for Business Organizations Testifying Through a Designated Representative

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6), a party can seek to depose a corporation or an organization by sending a notice or subpoena that describes “with reasonable particularity the matters for examination.” The corporation or organization must then identify an individual who “must testify about information known or reasonably available to the organization” regarding the designated subjects. Because a corporation had failed, in the view of the district court and the court of appeals, to fulfill its obligation to provide a sufficiently knowledgeable designated representative, it was the subject of sanctions that were affirmed on appeal in Imperial Premium Finance, LLC v. Lincoln Nat’l Life Ins. Co., Case No. 13-12559 (decided February 26, 2015).

Without dwelling on the details of the merits of the litigation, the subject of the sanctions award was Imperial Premium Finance, LLC, a non-party in the litigation. Although it was a non-party, Imperial had a financial stake in the outcome of the case. The district court concluded that Imperial had selectively prepared its corporate representative to testify and that the selective preparation of the witness constituted bad faith deserving of sanctions. In affirming the sanctions award, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals noted that the witness “was prepared to answer questions in ways that were helpful to Imperial, but that he lacked knowledge when the questions turned to areas that might cast Imperial in a bad light or otherwise harm it.” Opinion, p. 16. “Preparing a designated corporate witness with only the self-serving half of the story that is the subject of his testimony is not an act of good faith.” Opinion, pp. 16-17.

This Opinion is worth reading by any party that is required to go through the process of designating and educating a corporate representative to testify in litigation. The Opinion is available at

For more information on Designated Representatives, contact your Appellate Counsel at Smith, Gambrell & Russell.

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