After a lawsuit is filed in a car accident or other negligence case, the next step is to engage in discovery. This can include interrogatories (written questions), requests for documents, and requests for admissions being exchanged between the parties, with each side being required to provide certain information within a reasonable time. Once written discovery is finished, the next step is typically the taking of oral (and, sometimes, video) depositions.
Depositions may be taken for discovery (to learn more about the facts of the case) or for proof (to be presented at court in lieu of a witness’ appearance). If the parties are unable to agree on the scope of discovery, it is the trial court judge’s job to make a ruling on any disputes that arise. If a party is dissatisfied with a judge’s ruling, it is sometimes possible to seek the review of a higher, appellate-level court.
A recent petition for a writ of mandamus illustrates this procedure.
Facts of the Case
In 2014, the plaintiffs’ decedent was killed in a multi-vehicle accident in east Texas. The wreck happened as the decedent was following a pick-up truck pulling a flatbed trailer. A tractor-trailer owned and operated by the defendant rear-ended the decedent’s vehicle while traveling at approximately 65 mph, pushing her vehicle forward into the flatbed trailer.
During discovery, the plaintiffs deposed several witnesses with first-hand knowledge of the facts, as well as the defendant’s policies and procedures. The plaintiff then sought to depose the defendant’s owner/founder, whom the defendant characterized as being “at the apex of its corporate hierarchy.” The defendant opposed the deposition on the basis that the witness had no personal knowledge of the accident or any other knowledge relevant to the case that would be equal to or greater than that of other employees of the defendant.
A discovery dispute arose, and the trial court resolved the dispute by granting the plaintiffs’ motion to compel the deposition. Now, the defendant has filed paperwork in the appellate court, seeking a writ of mandamus to prevent the deposition. As grounds for the relief sought, the defendant is arguing that “apex depositions” are prohibited unless a party can show that the corporate individual whose deposition is sought “has unique or superior personal knowledge of discoverable facts.”
What Happens Next
The defendants’ petition was filed late last week. The plaintiffs will be given an opportunity to respond to the petition in writing, and oral arguments may be heard by the appellate court after that. Once the appellate court has reviewed all of the relevant documents, it will issue a ruling either granting or denying the defendant’s petition.
At that point, the matter will most likely be remanded to the trial court for further proceedings, although a further appeal could be sought. These proceedings will likely cause a delay of several months because a trial cannot occur until this discovery issue is resolved.
To Get Started on Your East Texas Car Wreck Case
As this case shows, resolving a car accident case can take a considerable amount of time, especially when serious injuries or wrongful deaths are involved. To talk with an experienced east Texas car and truck accident lawyer about your case without further delay, call Attorney Earl Drott at 903-531-9300. Our offices are located in Tyler, and we help clients throughout east Texas.
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