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Rutherford v. Paloverde Health Care District

United States District Court, C.D. California

November 14, 2014

Dennis Rutherford, et al.
v.
PaloVerde Health Care District, et al.,

CIVIL MINUTES - GENERAL

SHERI PYM, District Judge.

Proceedings: (In Chambers) Order Granting in Part Motion to Compel Defendants Burton and Sartin to Appear for Deposition in Excess of Seven Hours [277]

On October 13, 2014, plaintiffs filed a motion to compel defendants Samuel Burton and Trina Sartin to appear for depositions in excess of seven hours (docket no. 277). At this point plaintiffs have deposed each of these defendants for seven hours or a bit more, and seek five more hours of deposition time with each. Defendants oppose the motion, contending plaintiffs have had sufficient time with each defendant.

The parties have fully briefed the motion to compel, including submitting a Joint Stipulation ("JS"), supporting declarations and exhibits, and supplemental papers. The court has considered the papers submitted by the parties, and finds that a hearing on the motion is not necessary. The court previously took the hearing off calendar.

For the reasons that follow, the court grants in part plaintiffs' motion to compel.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Peter Klune, Dennis Rutherford, and Tara Barth are former executive employees of defendant Palo Verde Health Care District ("PVHD"). PVHD operates Palo Verde Hospital in Blythe, California. Plaintiffs filed lawsuits (which are now consolidated) in July 2013 alleging they were wrongfully terminated in January and February 2013 in response to their work in exposing or pursuing prosecution of an illegal kickback scheme at the hospital. Plaintiffs' claims include claims under the federal False Claims Act, for breach of their employment contracts, and for retaliatory termination and retaliation.

Defendants Samuel Burton and Trina Sartin are members of the PVHD Board of Directors. Defendant Burton has served on the Board since December 2010, and defendant Sartin has served on the Board since December 2012. Defendant Sartin is also a co-owner of Desert Air Ambulance, the use of which by Palo Verde Hospital is one of the underlying issues in this case.

Plaintiffs deposed defendant Burton for something over seven hours on September 18, 2014. Plaintiffs deposed defendant Sartin for some seven hours on October 14, 2014. At the conclusion of both depositions, plaintiffs' counsel indicated he had additional questions to ask, and defendants' counsel opposed any further time for these depositions.

DISCUSSION

"Unless otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, a deposition is limited to 1 day of 7 hours." Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(d)(1). The parties have not stipulated to exceed this limit; instead, plaintiffs seek an order of this court to exceed that limit. "The court must allow additional time consistent with Rule 26(b)(2) if needed to fairly examine the deponent or if the deponent, another person, or any other circumstance impedes or delays the examination." Id.

As a preliminary matter, the court notes that defendants object to allowing plaintiffs additional time to depose them because defendants have asserted a qualified immunity defense. See JS at 24-25. The cases defendants cite generally state that the court has the option to stay discovery until the qualified immunity defense is resolved. But that has not happened here. Given that discovery has proceeded, there is no logical reason to limit a particular party's deposition time simply because that party has asserted a qualified immunity defense, and the authority defendants cite does not suggest otherwise.

Plaintiffs seek what amounts to a full twelve hours each to depose defendants Burton and Sartin, noting that, in a January 22, 2014 order on a motion opposed by plaintiffs, the court granted defendants that much time to depose each of the plaintiffs. The court notes that it also granted defendants an addition 90 minutes to depose plaintiff Klune to again ask him questions he had previously refused to answer. That defendants were given additional time to depose plaintiffs is certainly a ...


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