Why COVID-19 Doesn’t Eliminate Your Discovery Obligations
The coronavirus pandemic sent shockwaves throughout the legal system, forcing practitioners to adjust time-tested procedures for the new normal. Accommodating special circumstances during the pandemic required the courts to set forth some new rules regarding discovery obligations. In this article, we’ll review one of these court decisions and explore the impact it may have on your daily practice.
Case Spotlight: Sunstate Equipment v. EquipmentShare¹
Today, we’re going to focus on the Utah case, Sunstate Equipment v. EquipmentShare. Prior to the pandemic the plaintiff, Sunstate Equipment, sent deposition notices to EquipmentShare seeking in-person testimony at their counsel’s office. As the pandemic developed, Sunstate proposed conducting all depositions remotely or allowing individual defendants to appear in person with counsel present and socially distanced. This would have been in lieu of the physical sessions that were previously noticed. EquipmentShare rejected their proposal.
In November, EquipmentShare then attempted to stay the depositions by moving for a protective order. Their reasoning was that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic would prevent counsel from being physically present in the same room as the deponent.
The Court’s Decision
After examining the facts and circumstances surrounding the motion for a protective order, the Court denied EquipmentShare’s request. Conducting the deposition as requested by EquipmentShare may have created an advantage for one party over the other. Judge Pead offered an exceptional summation of the events, saying that:
“Simply referencing the pandemic is not a golden ticket to get out of discovery obligations. Here it appears Defendants want to have their cake and eat it too. Defendants want their own counsel present for any deposition, but they do not want opposing counsel present, citing health concerns.”
Ramifications for eDiscovery
The Court’s decision in Sunstate v. EquipmentShare indicates that parties should always be prepared to proceed with their noticed discovery obligations, rather than expecting they will be COVID-based extensions. If one party desires the presence of their counsel during the deposition, they ought to be prepared to sit down with opposing counsel as well – provided that all precautions are taken and social distance is maintained.
Thanks for reading! We hope we’ve been able to clarify your discovery obligations in the wake of COVID-19. At First Legal Discovery, our experts are prepared to assist you with both remote and traditional discovery methods. From leveraging your existing technology to deploying a new solution, we make technology work for you!
¹ Sunstate Equip. Co. v. EquipmentShare, Case No. 2:19-cv-784 HCN (D. Utah Jun. 3, 2020)