SW Legal studies in Business

Attorney Who Improperly Blocks Deposition Is Subject to Sanction
Description Appeals court upheld a trial court order of money sanctions against a defendant's attorney who improperly instructed an employee of the defendant not to answer questions at a deposition. Unless information is privileged, there is no right to prevent discovery of information relevant to the case.
Topic Court Procedure
Key Words Evidence; Deposition; Relevance; Sanctions
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Colonial hired Stewart as a vice president in October 1997. She was fired three months later when she told the current CEO that he and another executive had problems that prevented her from working effectively with them. Stewart sued Colonial for wrongful termination. Her attorney took the deposition of one of the managers at Colonial. At the direction of Colonial's attorney, the manger refused to answer numerous questions relating to the CEO on the ground that they were not calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Stewart made a motion to the court to compel the witness to answer the questions. The trial court held that Colonial's attorney could not instruct witnesses not to answer unless privileged information was at stake and required the attorney to pay $2,400 in sanctions. The order of the trial court was appealed.
Decision Affirmed. Discovery rules are applied liberally in favor of discovery and, contrary to popular belief, fishing expeditions are permissible in some cases. Admissibility of information is not the test for whether discovery should be allowed. Information, unless privileged, might reasonably lead to admissible evidence. Questions pertaining to the CEO's treatment of other employees could produce admissible evidence relevant to the matter of the case. Since the information sought at the deposition was discoverable, and the defendant's attorney prevented discovery, the imposition of sanctions against the attorney was proper.
Citation Stewart v. Colonial Western Agency, Inc., 105 Cal.Rptr.2d 115 (Ct. App., Calif., 2001)

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