Chancery Penalizes Obstruction in Efforts to Take Deposition

Cartanza v. Cartanza, C.A. No. 7618-VCP (Del. Ch. April 16, 2013).

Issue Addressed:  Whether attorneys’ fees should be awarded due to defense counsel obstructing the efforts of opposing counsel to depose his client.

Short Answer: Yes.

Brief Overview

This letter ruling is a useful tool for the toolbox of any litigator.  In essence, defense counsel obstructed the efforts of the opposing counsel to depose his client.  For example, he explained without detail that certain vague medical conditions limited the availability of the defendant.  In addition, defense counsel purported to require that plaintiff provide specific reasons for the deposition, but the court found no basis in the rules or applicable case law for requiring a party to justify the request for taking the deposition of a party.

The court explained: “No particularized need standard” exists under Delaware law for a party to explain the need for a deposition, even when a deponent is suffering from a medical ailment.  Rather, a party has “a right to take a deposition regarding any matter which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action.  The information sought need not be critical . . ..”  See footnote 20 (citing Court of Chancery Rule 26(b)(1)).  See also footnote 19 and related text.

Therefore, under Court of Chancery Rule 37(a)(4)(A), the court awarded attorneys’ fees.

Of course, in a situation like this, the nuances and the details of the specific factual situation are often determinative, and for that reason this short 12-page letter ruling should be read in its entirety before applying the highlights of the standards referenced.