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Angela Staley v. U.S. Bank National Association

January 31, 2013

ANGELA STALEY,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
U.S. BANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION, U.S. BANCORP, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: B. Lynn Winmill Chief Judge United States District Court

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

The Court has before it Defendant's Motion to Quash Subpoena of Chris Christensen. (Dkt. 78).

BACKGROUND

Lawrence Christensen was the corporate investigator for U.S. Bank (the "Bank") who investigated Staley's alleged misuse of her corporate credit card. Staley's counsel deposed Christensen on April 17, 2012. At the outset of the deposition, the Bank provided Staley's counsel with approximately 150 pages of documents which were purported to be Christensen's investigative file of Staley. Casperson Aff., Dkt. 80-1. Most of the documents had never been previously produced, even though Staley had specifically requested the documents in earlier discovery requests. Id.

Although Staley's counsel attempted to review the documents as quickly as possible upon receiving them at the deposition, and she tried to review at least some of them with Christensen during the deposition, Christensen was apparently unable to identify some of the documents and did not recognize the handwriting on other documents. Id. Accordingly, Staley's counsel was not able to conduct the deposition or question Christensen about the documents as thoroughly as she could have had she been provided the documents in a timely fashion. Id. However, Staley's counsel asked for, and the Bank's counsel agreed, that she could hold open the deposition, at least as to documents not addressed, so she could review the documents and follow up with Christensen at a later date. Olsson Aff., Ex. A, Dkt. 82-2.

During the deposition, Staley's counsel did illicit from Christensen his testimony that he, like some of the other witnesses addressed in the earlier motions in limine, had apparently misused his corporate credit card without being immediately terminated. Id. Counsel notes that such testimony is indispensable to Staley's case, and that Staley believes that Christensen's live testimony is critical to conveying this information regarding the Bank's treatment of similarly-situated individuals. Id.

In late December 2012, counsel for the Bank contacted Staley's counsel and told her that Christensen had been diagnosed with a serious illness, and that he may not be able to testify at trial or be available for a trial deposition. Id. The Bank's counsel requested that Staley's counsel stipulate to Christensen's unavailability at trial or a trial deposition, and that his earlier deposition be used instead. Id. Staley's counsel indicated that she could not make that determination without hearing from Christensen's physician. Id.

On December 21, 2012, the Bank's counsel filed its witness list and trial brief, both of which asserted that Christensen was unavailable for trial, and that his deposition would be used in lieu of live testimony. She also indicated that an affidavit or declaration from Christensen's physician would be forthcoming. Dkts. 43 and 44). The affidavit or declaration was delayed because of difficulty getting it from the physician. Olsson Aff., Dkt. 82-1.

Therefore, Staley's counsel issued a subpoena to Christensen on January 21, 2013. Id. Two days later the Bank's counsel provided Staley's counsel with a declaration from Christensen's physician. Id. The declaration did not provide much detail -- presumably it was the same as, or similar to, the one filed with the Court in support of the motion to quash. Dkt. 78-1. That declaration indicates that Christensen's oncologist believes that Christensen's health condition would make it detrimental to his health to be subjected to trial or a trial deposition. Dkt. 78-1. Based upon the vagueness of the declaration, Staley's counsel would not stipulate to Christensen's unavailability for trial.

ANALYSIS

On timely motion, an issuing court must quash or modify a subpoena which subjects a person to undue burden. Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(c)(3)(A)(iv). The grant or denial of a motion to quash a subpoena is a matter of the Court's discretion, and is reviewed only for an abuse of that discretion. Mueller v. Auker, 700 F.3d 1180, 1194 (9th Cir. 2012).

The burden of showing that a subpoena is unduly burdensome, unreasonable or oppressive is upon the party to whom the subpoena is directed. Goodman v. United States, 369 F.2d 166, 169 (9th Cir. 1966).

Here, although the physician's declaration lacks detail, the physician states in no uncertain terms that subjecting Christensen to testify at trial or a deposition at this point would be detrimental to his health. Dr. Schultheiss Decl., Dkt. 78-1. Moreover, the Bank later submitted a second declaration from the physician under seal. Dkt. 83. The Court will not list the details of that declaration because it was filed under seal, but will simply note that the physician again states that Christensen should not attend trial. Dkt. 83. The Court will not second guess the physician's medical opinion, and the ...


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