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Noble v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

United States District Court, E.D. California

March 8, 2017

BROOKE NOBLE, Plaintiff,
WELLS FARGO BANK, N.A., et al ., Defendants.


         A. Background

         A Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of Defendant Wells Fargo occurred on January 20, 2017 in San Francisco, California. Following that deposition, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel and for sanctions requesting that a new Rule 30(b)(6) deposition be compelled and that sanctions enter as a result of conduct impeding the January 20 deposition. (ECF No. 129)

         On February 27, 2017, the Court granted, in part, and denied, in part, Plaintiff's motion to compel and for sanctions (ECF No. 129). (ECF No. 138.) Specifically, the Court ordered an additional seven-hour Rule 30(b)(6) deposition of Wells Fargo. (Id.) Additionally, the Court set forth a procedure for agreeing on the scope of that deposition, with the Court having input into any disputes in advance of the deposition. (Id.) The Court also denied Plaintiff's request for sanctions. (Id.)

         On March 3, 2017, the parties, as directed, jointly filed a list of deposition topics with a statement as to whether or not the topic is accepted or disputed. (ECF No. 140.) On March 6, 2017, the Court held a discovery dispute conference wherein certain disputed topics were resolved on the record. (ECF Nos. 141-42.)

         This order addresses the discovery dispute concerning the location of the new Rule 30(b)(6) deposition. Plaintiff's counsel argues that the new deposition should take place in the county where her office is located, Orange County, California. Wells Fargo maintains that the new deposition should occur again in San Francisco, the principal place of business for Wells Fargo. Both sides have filed briefs setting forth their legal positions. (ECF Nos. 142-43.)

         B. Legal Standards

         Generally, “[a] party may unilaterally choose the place for deposing an opposing party, subject to the granting of a protective order by the Court pursuant to Rule 26(c)(2), Fed.R.Civ.P., designating a different place.” Cadent Ltd. v. 3M Unitek Corp., 232 F.R.D. 625, 628 (C.D. Cal. 2005) (citing Turner v. Prudential Ins. Co. of America, 119 F.R.D. 381, 382 (M.D. N.C. 1988) (citing 8 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure, § 2112 at 403 (1970))).

         “A district court has wide discretion to establish the time and place of depositions.” Hyde & Drath v. Baker, 24 F.3d 1162, 1166 (9th Cir. 1994), as amended (July 25, 1994) (citing In re Standard Metals Corp., 817 F.2d 625, 628 (10th Cir.1987), cert. dismissed, 488 U.S. 881, 109 S.Ct. 201, 102 L.Ed.2d 171 (1988)).

         According to other courts reaching the issue-none of which are binding on this court, but which nevertheless provide guidance for the Court--a Rule 30 deposition of a corporate party deponent should ordinarily be taken at its principal place of business. Cadent, 232 F.R.D. at 628 (citing Wright, Miller & Marcus, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil 2d § 2112 at 84-85 (1994 rev.)). However, “[c]orporate defendants are frequently deposed in places other than the location of the principal place of business, especially in the forum [where the action is pending], for the convenience of all parties and in the general interests of judicial economy.” Id. (collecting cases).

         In addition to the convenience of the parties and the interests in judicial economy, courts have considered the following factors when analyzing whether a corporate deposition should be set in a location other than its principal place of business:

1) Location of counsel in the forum district; 2) Number of corporate representatives to be deposed; 3) Likelihood of significant discovery disputes arising which would necessitate resolution by the forum court; 4) Whether the persons sought to be deposed often engage in travel for business purposes; 5) The equities with regard to the nature of the claim and the parties' relationship.

Stonebreaker v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 820 F.Supp.2d 1096, 1098-99 (S.D. Cal. 2011) (citing Cadent, 232 F.R.D. at 629).

         Rule 30 does not state where depositions under that rule should take place, apart from requiring that the notice specify the location of the deposition. Rule 30(a)(1) states in relevant part that “The deponent's attendance may be compelled by subpoena under Rule 45.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(a)(1). Rule 45 includes a provision addressing “Place of Compliance” for a deposition, among other proceedings, and states that “A subpoena may command a person to attend a . . . deposition only as follows . . . within the state where the person resides, is employed, or regularly transacts business in person, if the person . . . is a party or a party's officer . . . .”

         The parties dispute the applicability of Rule 45, especially in light of defects in Plaintiff's Rule 45 subpoena such as the lack of witness fees. The Court has trouble reconciling the plain language of Rule 45 with the practice that corporate entities are ordinarily deposed at their principal place of business, and does not believe the cases cited from the parties put that issue to rest. Nevertheless, the Court takes comfort in the Advisory Committee notes to the 2013 Amendment to ...

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