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Summaries and analysis of recent Delaware court decisions concerning business-related litigation.
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Showing 5 posts in Delaware Procedure/Rules.
Delaware Supreme Court Reminds Counsel of Obligation to Prevent Clients’ Abusive Deposition Misconduct
“Depositions are court proceedings, and counsel defending the deposition have an obligation to prevent their deponent from impeding or frustrating a fair examination.” After reversing and remanding a contractual dispute involving popular Broadway shows back to the Court of Chancery on unrelated grounds, the Delaware Supreme Court included an Addendum to its opinion reprimanding an out-of-state attorney for permitting his client to engage in abusive deposition misconduct. During the deposition, Carole Shorenstein Hays, a prominent theater producer, repeatedly provided answers characterized by the Supreme Court as ridiculous, problematic, flagrantly evasive, nonresponsive, and flippant. Among other things, Hays claimed not to know whether she earned a university degree, claimed not to measure time in hours, refused to answer myriad straightforward questions, and made unprompted speeches in which she likened herself to Judy Garland and the deposition to a “piece of theatre that’s being recorded.” While no Delaware attorney for Hays attended the deposition, the two attorneys representing her were both admitted pro hac vice and made no attempt to stop her misconduct. The Court of Chancery had previously awarded attorneys’ fees and costs for this bad faith misconduct, and that ruling was not challenged on appeal. The Supreme Court felt compelled, however, to address the situation. The Supreme Court reasoned that, faced with such conduct, the deponent’s counsel “cannot simply be a spectator and do nothing.” In addition, “Delaware counsel moving the admission of out of state counsel pro hac vice also bear responsibility in such a situation. They must ensure that the attorney being admitted reviews the Principles of Professionalism for Delaware Lawyers, but they must also ensure that the out-of-state counsel understands what is expected of them in managing deposition proceedings outside the courthouse so that the litigation process is not abused.” In light of restrictions Delaware court rules and precedent impose on conferring with a client-deponent during the deposition, the Supreme Court advised that these points “should be addressed beforehand in the deposition preparation.”
Court rules require pre-trial disclosures regarding testifying experts and the subjects they will opine on. Adequate disclosure is a prerequisite to admissibility. Insufficient disclosure could result in the Court disallowing or striking expert trial testimony. This decision explains the type of disclosures that are sufficient and those that are deficient, granting in part and denying in part a motion to strike.
As this decision again points out, a scheduling order is a court order that must be followed or sanctions will be imposed. Late production of documents is just such a sanctionable event.
This is an interesting decision because it applies a recent addition to the Delaware Rules of Evidence, Rule 510(f), which allows a court to enter an order preserving privilege despite disclosure in connection with the litigation before it. Here, the Court of Chancery entered such an order in connection with an in camera review by a special discovery master.
This decision permits a rebuttal witness to testify in an unusual situation that illustrates the flexibility the Court of Chancery often employs when conducting a trial. Among the issues addressed is the order of proof, belated identification of a witness, sequestration orders, the witness-as-advocate rule, and the tactical considerations in calling an adverse witness in support of your case.