Sun Capital Partners, Inc. v. Twin Cities Fire Ins. Co.

310 F.R.D. 523 (2015)


P sued D seeking payment on a supplemental insurance policy. P seeks a protective order prohibiting Twin (D)from taking the depositions of Marc Leder and Rodger Krouse. P claims that under the apex doctrine, Leder and Krouse-who are both co-founders and co-chief executive officers should not be deposed, as they do not have unique knowledge of the issues in this case that cannot be obtained through less intrusive means. As for Couch, general counsel and a managing director of P, P maintains that he does not have unique knowledge of the issues in this case and most questions asked of him would draw objections based on privileges and immunities. Not one deposition has been conducted by D to date, not even that of the 30(b)(6) witness offered by P, Thomas Clare, who was P's outside defense counsel in the underlying litigation. P alleges that a party seeking these types of deposition must show that 1) no other means exist to obtain the information, 2) the information sought is relevant and non-privileged, and 3) the information is crucial to the preparation of the case. D claims the three parties have 'unique knowledge of at-issue events,' evidenced by 'literally hundreds of communications' showing their direct roles in the settlement negotiations in the underlying litigation. D posits that the apex doctrine is meant to protect executives with no firsthand knowledge of an issue, not employees that directly participated in negotiations that are at issue in the litigation. D contends that 'no other employees at P can testify about the direct involvement, including direct editing of the settlement terms, by these individuals. D also states that the Shelton test only seeks to protect true attorney-client privileges and avoid the 'chilling effect' that the practice of deposing counsel will have on the truthful communications from the client to the attorney. D also asserts that exhaustion is not the standard for deposing corporate officials with unique, first-hand knowledge. D also argues that P's assertion that other individuals should be prepared and deposed first is belied by the fact that Leder, Krouse, and Couch all claim to have forgotten any unique, first-hand knowledge of the underlying litigation. D asserts that P is not a large company such as Google or General Motors, two of the defendants cited by P that obtained apex protection.