Firm Newsletter - December 2016

An Insurance Carrier Must Tender a Corporate Representative for Deposition in an UM/UIM Case 

Photo by lionvision/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by lionvision/iStock / Getty Images

In In re Crystal Luna, Luna brought suit against Antunez, the driver of the vehicle who caused her to sustain personal injuries. Luna also claimed she was covered under her automobile policy with State Farm, which included underinsured motorist coverage (“UM/UIM”). Luna’s causes of action arising from the motor vehicle accident were separated into three separate lawsuits: (1) the original lawsuit brought in 2009 in which Luna sued Antunez and State Farm for her personal injuries and underinsured motorist coverage; (2) a severed lawsuit involving Luna’s contractual claims against State Farm; and (3) another severed lawsuit containing Luna’s extra-contractual claims against State Farm. The first lawsuit was resolved in Luna’s favor after default judgment against Antunez. The second lawsuit is the basis of the underlying proceeding. The third lawsuit containing the extra-contractual claims against State Farm was abated.

In the original lawsuit, the trial court granted State Farm’s motion to quash Luna’s effort to depose a corporate representative for State Farm. In 2015, however, the trial court lifted the abatement against State Farm and the underlying UM/UIM case after the trial court rendered judgment in favor of Luna and against Antunez.

So, on June 6, 2016, Luna informed State Farm that she planned to take the deposition of a corporate representative. Luna’s request is what ultimately led to this mandamus action. Thereafter, State Farm notified Luna that the trial court had previously denied said request by written order on November 15, 2011. Luna served an amended notice of deposition of the representative “having the most knowledge regarding the following areas which [are] the basis of this lawsuit” including (among other things):

(1) the damage sustained by all vehicles involved in the collision . . . (2) whether Antunez was an uninsured motorist at the time of the collision; (3) whether Antunez was driving an uninsured vehicle at the time of the collision; . . . (5) State Farm’s contention that Luna ‘has failed to comply with all conditions precedent to recovery’ . . . ; and (6) whether the term ‘uninsured motor vehicle’ is correctly defined in the State Farm insurance policy . . .

State Farm filed a motion to quash Luna’s amended notice for a corporate representative deposition arguing that the notice was “improper, harassing, [and] prepared solely to abuse State Farm.” In addition, State Farm claimed that the expense of the proposed deposition outweighed the likely benefit to Luna. Specifically, State Farm argued that the information Luna sought in the deposition was either not relevant to the issues or State Farm had no personal knowledge of them. Among other things, State Farm stated that the specific subjects for testimony listed in the amended notice of deposition were improper due to “State Farm’s lack of personal knowledge and the attorney client and work product privileges.”

Notwithstanding State Farm’s argument that its corporate representative would not have personal knowledge of the facts at issue, the Court referred to rule 192.3 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure which provides that “[a] person has knowledge of relevant facts when the person has or may have knowledge of any discoverable matter. The person need not have admissible information or personal knowledge of the facts.” Tex. R. Civ. P. 192.3(c) (emphasis added). The Court ultimately ruled in Luna’s favor and lifted the stay previously imposed in the case and conditionally granted the petition for writ of mandamus.

Well, the Thirteenth Court of Appeals recently held that a party has the right to depose the opposing party regardless of whether the opposing party has personal knowledge of certain facts.

We will have to see if another appellate court takes a look at this issue.

Downloadable .PDF - December 2016