Court of Appeals of Texas, Houston (14th Dist.)
September 03, 2009
Don Jackson and Melissa Michelle Davis, for Boxer Property Management Corporation and 9343 North Loop, L.P.
Randall O. Sorrels, for Willie Hargrove.
Benjamin L. Hall III, for Lynell Wells.
William J. Eggleston, for Joel Eric Abbt.
James L. Doyle, for Russell Collins.
W. Mark Lanier, for Jerome and Sally Ellis.
Rodney V. Ruiz, For State Office of Risk Management.
Panel consists of Justices ANDERSON, GUZMAN, and BOYCE.
*1 Boxer Property Management Corporation and 9343 North Loop, L.P. filed a petition for writ of mandamus asking this court to compel the presiding judge of the 133rd District Court of Harris County to vacate a June 16, 2009 order compelling the deposition of relators' corporate representative. Relators contend the deposition will invade the attorney work product privilege regarding their response to requests for production propounded by real parties in interest, Lynell Wells, individually, as the legal representative of the estate of her deceased husband, Marvin Wells, and as next friend of her minor child, Adrian D. Wells; Marvin Wells d/b/a M & E Transportation; Marvin G. Wells; and Shameka Wells (the “Wells plaintiffs”). We conditionally grant the writ.
On March 28, 2007, Misty Ann Weaver set fire to the fifth floor office leased by her employer in the atrium-style building located at 9343 North Loop in Houston.
9343 North Loop, L.P. owns the building and Boxer Property Management Corporation (“Boxer”) manages it. Marvin Wells, Jeanette Hargrove, and Shana Ellis died as a result of the fire, and their family members brought premises-liability claims against 9343 North Loop, L.P. and Boxer.
On September 5, 2008, the Wells plaintiffs served relators with their eighth set of combined discovery, including requests for production, regarding other atrium-style buildings currently or previously managed by Boxer. The discovery focused on roof vents and roof hatches. On October 6, 2008, relators objected that the requests for production were overly broad because they sought information about buildings other than the 9343 North Loop building. Relators asserted that such information was irrelevant and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.
The Wells plaintiffs filed a motion to compel responses to the disputed discovery, which was heard by the Honorable Lamar McCorkle on December 15, 2008. Judge McCorkle signed an order on December 22, 2008, directing relators to provide full and complete responses to the eighth set of combined discovery requests. On March 20, 2009, relators responded to the requests for production; they asserted that no documents regarding roof vents and roof hatches exist other than those previously produced for the 9343 North Loop building.
On April 13, 2009, the Wells plaintiffs served relators with a deposition notice directed to relators' corporate representative with knowledge, among other things, of who searched for documents related to roof vents and roof hatches in other atrium-style buildings; which buildings were searched; and the manner in which the document search was conducted. Relators moved to quash the notice of deposition and requested a protective order on April 16, 2009. Among other grounds, relators objected that the deposition notice was an “improper inquiry into work product and attorney-client matters.”
On May 9, 2009, the Wells plaintiffs filed a motion to compel the deposition of relators' corporate representative and asserted that relators had refused to respond to outstanding discovery. Relators responded on May 14, 2009 that they had “completely complied with their obligations in responding to these requests by performing a diligent record search for responsive documents. After defense counsel's investigation, no documents were identified that are responsive to the requests.” Relators also reasserted arguments raised in their motion to quash.
*2 At a hearing before Judge Jaclanel McFarland
on June 2, 2009, relators' counsel argued that (1) his clients had conducted an “exhaustive search” for responsive documents; and (2) it was inappropriate to inquire into what the lawyers did or what others did at the lawyers' direction in response to the discovery.
Counsel for the Wells plaintiffs asserted that relators are “hiding” documents; therefore, the Wells plaintiffs want a witness to state under oath what was done to search for the responsive documents. The trial court directed the Wells plaintiffs to submit proposed questions for the trial court's review, after which the trial court would decide whether to allow a limited deposition. On June 10, 2009, the Wells plaintiffs submitted thirteen proposed questions and one document production request.
Another hearing was held on June 16, 2009, at which relators stated that they originally had objected to discovery on other atrium-style buildings, and after their objections were overruled by Judge McCorkle's December 22, 2008 order, relators searched for these records. Relators stated that they had complied with their obligations and responded to the discovery. Relators' counsel further stated that the deponent necessarily would be their general counsel because he “led” relators' efforts in responding to discovery. Counsel for the Wells plaintiffs asserted that a deposition would establish relators' lack of diligence in searching for the requested documents.
The trial court approved twelve of the thirteen proposed questions and the request for document production; granted the motion to compel the deposition of relators' corporate representative; and signed an order compelling relators to produce the documents and witness to answer the approved questions as follows:
1. State your full name.
2. Referring to attached Exhibit 1,
please describe what you understand this court order to compel you to supply plaintiffs?
3. Referring to attached Exhibit 1, please state the criteria and understanding you utilized to identify the “other buildings” you were to obtain information on?
4. Referring to attached Exhibit 1, please identify the physical address of each “other building” you researched to provide responsive information to the attached order.
5. Where are the records kept?
6. What categories of records exist for each building?
7. What did you do to look for records?
8. Please identify the person(s) who actually searched for any and all responsive documents to comply with the court order attached as Exhibit 1.
9. Referring to attached Exhibit 2, please identify which of the buildings identified in that Exhibit that you did not search for responsive documents in responding to Exhibit 1.
10. Referring to Exhibit 2, please identify each of the buildings identified in that Exhibit that you did search for responsive documents in responding to Exhibit 1.
*3 11. Please identify all other buildings in Houston, Harris County, Texas that were managed by Boxer Property Management on March 28, 2007.[sic] and state which of these you made a search of to comply with attached Exhibit 1.
12. Please provide all documents relating to the inspection, condition and/or repairs made to any fire alarms, fire warning, roof vents, [and] smoke vents in any of the properties identified in Exhibit 2 hereto at any time between 2003 and [March 28,] 2007.
13. Which of the properties identified in the Exhibit identified in Exhibit 2 are you not providing documents on in response to Exhibit 1 and why?
The trial court further ordered that the deposition be taken at the courthouse. On June 30, 2009, the trial court denied relators' motion to stay the June 16, 2009 order while they sought mandamus relief. This court granted a stay and now addresses relators' request for mandamus relief on the merits.
To obtain relief by a writ of mandamus, a relator must show that (1) the trial court clearly abused its discretion; and (2) the relator has no adequate remedy by appeal. In re Team Rocket, L.P., 256 S.W.3d 257, 259 (Tex.2008) (orig.proceeding). A trial court clearly abuses its discretion if it reaches a decision so arbitrary and unreasonable as to amount to a clear and prejudicial error of law, or if it clearly fails to correctly analyze or apply the law. In re Cerberus Capital Mgmt., L.P., 164 S.W.3d 379, 382 (Tex.2005) (orig.proceeding) (per curiam); Walker v. Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 839 (Tex.1992) (orig.proceeding). In determining whether an appeal is an adequate remedy, we consider whether the benefits of mandamus review outweigh the detriments. In re BP Prods. N. Am., Inc., 244 S.W.3d 840, 845 (Tex.2008) (orig.proceeding). When the appellate court cannot remedy the trial court's discovery error, an inadequate remedy does not exist. In re Dana Corp., 138 S.W.3d 298, 301 (Tex.2004) (orig.proceeding) (per curiam); In re Kuntz, 124 S.W.3d 179, 181 (Tex.2003). Mandamus is appropriate when discovery exceeds permissible bounds. In re Weekley Homes, L.P., No. 08-0836, 2009 WL 2666774, at *8 (Tex. Aug.28, 2009).
Relators contend that the court-approved deposition questions serve no purpose other than to investigate in-house counsel's search for documents in response to requests for production. Relators assert that the information at issue-the “who, what, when, why and how” of relators' search for responsive documents-constitutes core attorney work-product.
A. Attorney Work Product is Privileged
Discovery generally is permitted regarding any unprivileged information relevant to the subject of a lawsuit. Tex.R. Civ. P. 192.3(a). The scope of discovery is a matter of trial court discretion. In re CSX Corp., 124 S.W.3d 149, 152 (Tex.2003) (orig.proceeding) (per curiam). However, a trial court's ruling that requires production beyond what the procedural rules permit is an abuse of that discretion. In re Dana Corp., 138 S.W.3d at 301. Depositions may not be used to conduct a fishing expedition. See
K Mart Corp. v. Sanderson, 937 S.W.2d 429, 431 (Tex.1996) (orig.proceeding) (per curiam) (citing Loftin v. Martin, 776 S.W.2d 145, 148 (Tex.1989) (orig.proceeding)).
*4 An assertion that material or information is work product is an assertion of privilege. Tex.R. Civ. P. 192.5(d). The party resisting discovery bears the burden of establishing the applicability of an asserted privilege. In re ExxonMobil Corp., 97 S.W.3d 353, 357 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2003, orig. proceeding) (citing Huie v. DeShazo, 922 S.W.2d 920, 926 (Tex.1996) (orig.proceeding)). The work-product privilege is governed by Rule 192.5. Tex.R. Civ. P. 192.5. Rule 192.5(a) covers:
(1) material prepared or mental impressions developed in anticipation of litigation or for trial by or for a party or a party's representatives, including the party's attorneys, consultants, sureties, indemnitors, insurers, employees, or agents; or
(2) a communication made in anticipation of litigation or for trial between a party and the party's representatives or among a party's representatives, including the party's attorneys, consultants, sureties, indemnitors, insurers, employees, or agents.
The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure protect work product from discovery and distinguish between core and non-core work product. Tex.R. Civ. P. 192.5(b). Core work product is defined as “the work product of an attorney or an attorney's representative that contains the attorney's or the attorney's representative's mental impressions, opinions, conclusions, or legal theories.” Tex.R. Civ. P. 192.5(b)(1). Core work product is not discoverable. Id.
Any other work product is discoverable only upon a showing that the party seeking discovery has substantial need of the materials in the preparation of the party's case, and that the party is unable without undue hardship to obtain the substantial equivalent of the material by other means. Tex.R. Civ. P. 192.5(b)(2).
B. The Discovery at Issue Invades the Work-Product Privilege
Relators argue that the trial court's order compelling the deposition of their corporate representative necessarily requires that the deponent will be their general counsel, who led relators' internal discovery response efforts, and therefore impermissibly invades the attorney work-product privilege. Relators rely on In re Exxon Corporation, 208 S.W.3d 70 (Tex.App.-Beaumont 2006, orig. proceeding), to support this contention. The Wells plaintiffs assert that Exxon
is inapplicable because the June 16 order compels the deposition of a “corporate representative,” not in-house counsel.
addressed whether the trial court may compel a party to present a deponent to testify regarding efforts to locate documents sought in requests for production. Id.
at 71. The plaintiffs alleged that two contract workers died of cancer attributable to benzene exposure while working on Exxon's premises. Id.
With regard to documents previously requested, the plaintiffs sought information via deposition about the existence of such documents; electronic creation, duplication and storage; document retention and destruction policies; location; organization, indexing, and filing; method of search; completeness; and authenticity. Id.
at 72. Plaintiffs deposed the records custodian of the industrial-hygiene room, which contained records of any hazards to employees; the deponent could not say that no other departments possessed responsive documents. Id.
Plaintiffs then deposed an industrial hygienist, who also could not say definitely that the plaintiffs possessed all responsive documents. Id.
*5 Plaintiffs then moved to compel compliance with the trial court's orders regarding discovery and requested sanctions. Id.
at 73. The plaintiffs contended that Exxon had produced witnesses who had no knowledge of the method Exxon used to search for responsive documents. Id.
Despite Exxon's objections that the plaintiffs knew its in-house and outside counsel had compiled responsive documents, the trial court ordered Exxon to produce a deponent. Id.
Exxon filed a petition for writ of mandamus and argued that requiring a corporate representative to testify about the search for responsive documents necessarily invaded the attorney-client and work-product privileges. Exxon, 208 S.W.3d at 74. The plaintiffs responded that information about whether Exxon had performed a diligent search could not encompass work product because the documents were not created in preparation for litigation. Id.
Rejecting the plaintiffs' arguments, the court of appeals explained:
[T]he plaintiffs seek to depose an Exxon representative for the purpose of inquiring specifically into the process by which Exxon's representative responded to the requests for production. This subject necessarily and almost exclusively concerns the “mental impressions developed in anticipation of litigation or for trial by or for a party or a party's representatives” and consists of the “attorney's representative's mental impressions, opinions, conclusions, or legal theories” subject to protection as work product and core work product.
at 75 (quoting Tex.R. Civ. P. 192.5(a)(1), (b)(1)). The court further explained that the anticipated deponent likely would be one of Exxon's attorneys. Id.
at 76. Moreover, the plaintiffs had not produced any concrete evidence of discovery abuse in that case justifying an investigation into Exxon's discovery compliance. Id.
at 71. Therefore, the trial court abused its discretion by compelling Exxon to present a deponent responsive to the deposition notice. Id.
This case is similar to Exxon
because the sole purpose of this deposition is to explore the methods used in searching for documents requested in discovery. This is demonstrated by the court-approved deposition questions and by the explanation that counsel for the Wells plaintiffs gave regarding the purpose and need for the deposition. At the June 2, 2009 hearing, the Wells plaintiffs' counsel argued to the trial court as follows:
[Relators are] saying they have no records indicating that they took any maintenance procedures or maintenance care of these-of the fire systems in these other buildings. That just does not smack to be truthful, and that's why we are asking permission to take the deposition of someone under oath who can tell us what they did and where the documents were searched for.
Furthermore, at the June 16, 2009 hearing, the Wells plaintiffs' counsel stated:
So now we've asked for a deposition so someone can face the pains and penalties of perjury to say that no such documents exist.
*6 Relators also told the trial court that the deponent necessarily would be their general counsel because “if we're going to delve into what we do to answer discovery, that's the person who led it up, because he's the contact of the client for responding to discovery.” At the June 30 hearing, when the trial court expressed its doubts that “the attorney went to all of the buildings and all the management office[s] and physically looked through the documents,” relators responded that “[h]e did and this is not a big company. This isn't Exxon. This is a small operation.”
The Wells plaintiffs attempt to distinguish Exxon
on grounds that the record in that case provided no indication of discovery abuse in connection with the requests for production. The Wells plaintiffs argue that (1) Exxon produced 25,000 pages of documents and made its 100,000-document industrial hygiene file room available to the plaintiffs; and (2) the Exxon plaintiffs had taken the depositions of two non-attorney employees familiar with the records. But there is no evidence of discovery abuse by relators on this record. There are only allegations. This is an insufficient basis upon which to justify the discovery being sought. Cf.
In re Weekley Homes, L.P., 295 S.W.3d 309, 2009 WL 2666774, at *11 (“conclusory statements that the deleted emails it seeks ‘must exist’ ... [are] not enough to justify the highly intrusive method of discovery the trial court ordered”).
The Wells plaintiffs further attempt to distinguish Exxon
because the plaintiffs there specifically asked the court to compel the deposition of an Exxon attorney, while no such request has been made here. This attempt fails because the plaintiffs in Exxon
requested a corporate representative responsive to their deposition notice even though they knew that Exxon's attorneys had compiled the document in response to the requests for production. Similar circumstances exist here. The Wells plaintiffs assert that they would accept relators' custodian of records as the deponent, but it is undisputed on this record that the person who oversaw relators' responses to the Wells plaintiffs' requests for production is relators' general counsel.
We conclude that the analysis in Exxon
applies with equal force here. On this record, it is beyond dispute that the requested deposition will explore attorney work product in connection with relators' efforts to respond to the Wells plaintiffs' discovery requests. The Wells plaintiffs contend that the deposition is necessary because relators are “hiding” documents, and argue that a deposition will show “that someone has not done a diligent search for [the documents].” The assertion of discovery abuse rests entirely on relators' representation that responsive documents do not exist. Under these circumstances, a deposition of relators' general counsel aimed at exploring how this attorney responded to discovery constitutes an impermissible fishing expedition.
*7 The circumstances here point even more strongly in favor of mandamus relief than those at issue in Exxon.
there initially was a non-privileged purpose for the requested deposition: exploring the nature and organization of the produced documents in the file room. No such purpose exists in this case. The only purpose here is to police relators' discovery compliance. Bare assertions that an opponent is hiding documents do not justify deposing in-house counsel at the courthouse about whether a diligent document search really was conducted.
C. Mandamus Is Not Premature
The Wells plaintiffs argue that, even if the trial court's order requires an attorney's deposition, mandamus relief is inappropriate at this time. The Wells plaintiffs posit that, to assert a privilege, the witness must attend the deposition, the witness must be sworn, questions must be asked, and if the answer to a particular question requires disclosure of privileged information, then counsel may advise the witness not to answer and present a privilege objection to the trial court. See
Tex.R. Civ. P. 199.5, 199.6. The Wells plaintiffs claim that mandamus relief therefore is premature because these events have not yet occurred in this case.
The Wells plaintiffs cite several cases holding that the trial court may not quash a deposition based solely on the possibility that a party may assert a privilege; instead, the party may assert a privilege at the time a specific question is asked at deposition that invades the privilege. However, a review of these cases reflects that the discovery sought information on facts related to the claims or defenses in the underlying litigation; therefore, quashing the entire deposition based on the possible assertion of a privilege would constitute an abuse of discretion.
Here, in contrast, relators' general counsel is not merely a fact witness whom the Wells plaintiffs desire to question about underlying claims or defenses.
The precise questions that would be posed at the deposition already have been framed and approved by the trial court; thus, the examination of matters related to attorney work-product is not a mere possibility. Instead, the pre-approved questions solely concern attorney work product involving the general counsel's efforts to respond to the Wells plaintiffs' requests for production of documents related to other buildings.
The Wells plaintiffs also posit that mandamus is premature because “[e]ven in this situation where the court has approved a list of topics which may form the basis for questions which may be asked the deposition, no question has been asked and counsel may or may not choose to examine the witness relating to all these matters.” This argument fails because the questions submitted for approval by the trial court are not merely “topics” that the Wells plaintiffs may explore at deposition. Instead, they are the specific questions to be asked at the deposition, which the trial court expressly instructed counsel for the Wells plaintiffs to submit for its review and approval. At the June 2, 2009 hearing, the trial court stated to the Wells plaintiffs' counsel: “I mean, I want you to write out actually a question, not just, you know, you want them to produce somebody with knowledge.... I want you to limit it, make it as poignant [sic] as you can, and I want the exact questions you are going to ask.”
*8 Given this procedural posture, granting mandamus relief is neither premature nor advisory. The trial court instructed counsel for the Wells plaintiffs to submit the specific depositions questions he intended to ask. Relators objected to the proposed questions based on privilege.
The trial court overruled relators' objections and approved twelve of the thirteen questions proposed by the Wells plaintiffs. Therefore, no speculation is required to know what questions will be asked and what objections will be asserted.
The Wells plaintiffs further assert that relators must produce a witness for deposition, who must answer any questions asked in the deposition relating to non-privileged matters. In the event relators believe a specific question asked at the deposition intrudes upon a privileged matter, relators may object at the time of the deposition. See
Tex.R. Civ. P. 199.5, 199.6.
Relators assert the parties' and the trial court's time would be wasted by waiting to seek mandamus relief until after (1) relators have produced the witness, (2) the Wells plaintiffs have asked the court-approved questions, (3) relators' counsel has advised the witness not to answer based on a privilege, (4) relators have presented the privilege objection to the trial court, and (5) the trial court has overruled relators' objection for a second time. We agree. Rules 199.5 and 199.6 do not require another round of privilege objections and rulings based on a predetermined set of questions directed to in-house counsel. The particular procedure utilized here required relators to object prior to the deposition. They did so, and the trial court abused its discretion in overruling their objections. Accordingly, we conclude that granting mandamus relief in this case is not premature.
D. Relators Told the Trial Court They Conducted an “Exhaustive” Search
The Wells plaintiffs argue that relators' response to their requests for production-that no responsive documents existed-was inadequate because it did not include the language “after a diligent search” as required by Rule 196.2(b)(4). The Wells plaintiffs failed to raise this complaint in the trial court; but even if they had, it is not dispositive here because relators seek protection from the order compelling the deposition, not the requests for production.
In any event, relators repeatedly told the trial court that they had conducted “an exhaustive search” and a “reasonable search” for documents responsive the requests for production.
These representations to opposing counsel and the trial court are sufficient.
E. Matters Related to Other Buildings
The Wells plaintiffs next assert that they are permitted discovery on matters relating to other buildings managed by Boxer because relators' expert claimed that the 9343 North Loop building was managed, maintained, and operated in accordance with industry standards. See
Tex.R. Civ. P. 192.3. This contention does not address the issue presented to us in this mandamus, and in any event, relators have represented that responsive documents do not exist.
F. No Adequate Remedy by Appeal
*9 When the appellate court cannot remedy the trial court's discovery error, an adequate remedy does not exist. In re Dana Corp., 138 S.W.3d at 301; In re Kuntz, 124 S.W.3d at 181. If relators are compelled to disclose their core attorney work product, such error cannot be remedied on appeal. See
In re E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 136 S.W.3d 218, 223 (Tex.2004) (orig.proceeding) (per curiam) (mandamus is proper when the trial court erroneously orders the disclosure of privileged information because the trial court's error cannot be corrected on appeal).
Relators have established that the trial court abused its discretion by compelling the deposition of relators' corporate representative, its general counsel, to respond the twelve questions and one request for production set forth in the June 16, 2009 order. Relators have no adequate remedy by appeal. Accordingly, we conditionally grant the petition for a writ of mandamus and direct the trial court to vacate its June 16, 2009 order. The writ will issue only if the trial court fails to act in accordance with this opinion. We lift the stay issued on July 2, 2009.
Weaver pleaded guilty to felony aggravated arson and three counts of felony murder in connection with the fire.
Judge Jaclanel McFarland became the presiding judge of the 133rd District Court on January 1, 2009.
The Wells plaintiffs also submitted another question asking “[w]hich buildings have had fire panels replaced,” but the trial court did not approve this question.
Exhibit 1 is the December 22, 2008 order directing relators to provide full and complete responses to the eighth set of combined discovery requests. Exhibit 2 lists other buildings managed by Boxer.
The proposed question originally included a range of dates between 2003 and June 1, 2007; the trial court changed the ending date to March 28, 2007, the date of the fire.
At the June 30 hearing, relators further argued to the trial court regarding the person with the most knowledge about relators' response to the Wells plaintiffs' requests for production:
In this case, I think we've shown that this person is John Rentz, our general counsel. If it's not the outside lawyers, what could be even probably more dangerous. So it's a noticed [sic] yes for a corporate rep but that corporate rep is necessarily, John Rentz, the general counsel because they've asked for the person with the most knowledge. He did the works. He's the person with the most knowledge.
Borden, Inc. v. Valdez, 773 S.W.2d 718, 720 (Tex.App.-Corpus Christi 1989, orig. proceeding) (“The problem, however, is that no questions have been asked and we may only speculate as to the substance of what would be revealed should King be deposed.”); Hilliard v. Heard, 666 S.W.2d 584, 585 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1984, orig. proceeding) (“Whether or not such claims [of privilege] will be asserted is conjectural until they are made of record, and the mere prospect that such privilege or immunity will be urged on deposition does not justify prior restraint on the taking of a deposition.”).
In re Mason & Co. Prop. Mgmt., 172 S.W.3d 308, 314 (Tex.App.-Corpus Christi 1989, orig. proceeding) (holding trial court abused discretion by quashing deposition of plaintiff's and co-defendants' attorneys to discover communications between attorneys because such discovery was relevant to claims and defenses at issue, and parties could follow procedures for asserting privilege at deposition); Borden, Inc., 773 S.W.2d at 720-21 (denying mandamus relief from trial court's denial of motion to quash deposition of defendant's attorney, who may have been aware of relevant facts underlying subject matter of lawsuit, because no questions had been asked and some topics might not be encompassed by attorney-client privilege); Hilliard, 666 S.W.2d at 585 (holding trial court abused discretion by quashing deposition of defendant's attorney, who had injected himself into lawsuit by filing controverting affidavit); In re Check, No. 04-07-00801-CV, 2007 WL 4320709, at *1 (Tex.App.-San Antonio Dec. 12, 2007, orig. proceeding [mand. denied] ) (mem.op.) (denying mandamus relief from denial of motion to quash deposition of defendant's attorney because his involvement in events underlying litigation made him fact witness, and nothing precluded asserting privilege to particular questions); In re Christus Health Se. Tex., No. 09-04-186-CV, 2004 WL 1047382, at *1 (Tex.App.-Beaumont May 6, 2004, orig. proceeding) (mem.op.) (denying mandamus relief from order requiring deposition of attorney because relators had not shown that attorney-client privilege would be violated if attorney was deposed about what facts she knew indicating decedent had physically abused wife).
Boxer's general counsel already has been deposed in connection with other non-privileged issues related to the merits of this case.
At the June 16, 2009 hearing, relators argued that the deposition questions are improper “discovery on discovery.” In their motion to stay the June 16, 2009 order, relators objected to the deposition questions:
The Boxer Defendants strongly believe that Plaintiffs' proposed deposition questions seek information protected by the work[-]product privilege. The Boxer Defendants' general counsel and outside attorneys were the persons who drafted the responses to Plaintiffs' discovery requests and conducted the search for responsive documents.
At the June 30, 2009 hearing, relators told the trial court:
[W]e just object to those questions and, you know, if I was going to present a witness who knew anything, the only way to get that knowledge in that witness's brain if it's not John Rentz is for John Rentz to tell [,] then we have attorney-client and work product.
In their March 20, 2009 response to the requests for production, relators stated, “Subject to and without waiving Defendants' objections, none other than documents previously produced by Defendants in this matter for 9343 North Loop East, the building that is the subject of this lawsuit.”
At the June 2, 2009 hearing, relators' counsel stated:
I will tell you that my client did an exhaustive search in the places that were reasonable, in looking at the records. They went to each of the buildings and got the records that were at the buildings that they had access to, and all of those documents were reviewed. They've reviewed their accounting records for entries that were appropriate and followed those runs.
Furthermore, at the June 30 hearing, relators's counsel stated that “We made the reasonable search that you're required to make and we responded we have none.” Also, in their response to the motion to compel, relators stated, “After defense counsel's investigation, no documents were identified that are responsive to the requests.”
End of Document.