Law School Case Brief
Sec. Nat'l Bank of Sioux City v. Abbott Labs. - 299 F.R.D. 595 (N.D. Iowa July 28, 2014)
Nothing about the text of Fed. R. Civ. P. 30 or 32 suggests that a lawyer preserves the universe of "form" objections simply by objecting to "form." Some contend that the objection should be limited to the words "I object to the form of the question." The Rule, however, is not so restrictive. Rather, it simply provides that the objection must be stated concisely in a nonargumentative and nonsuggestive manner. The general practice in Iowa permits an objector to state in a few words the manner in which the question is defective as to form (e.g., compound, vague as to time, misstates the record, etc.). This process alerts the questioner to the alleged defect, and affords an opportunity to cure the objection. Going one step further, lawyers are required, not just permitted, to state the basis for their objections.
This matter arises out of a product liability case tried to a jury in January of 2014. Plaintiff Security National Bank (SNB), acting as conservator for a minor child, J.M.K., sued Defendant Abbott Laboratories (Abbott), claiming that J.M.K. suffered permanent brain damage after consuming baby formula, produced by Abbott, that allegedly contained a dangerous bacteria called enterobacter sakazakii. SNB went to trial against Abbott. On January 17, 2014, a jury found in favor of Abbott on SNB's product liability claims. During trial, the judge addressed Counsel's conduct in defending depositions related to this case. Specifically, he filed a sua sponte order to show cause as to why I should not sanction Counsel for the "serious pattern of obstructive conduct" that Counsel exhibited during depositions by making hundreds of "form" objections that ostensibly lacked a valid basis.
Were sanctions against defendant's counsel warranted?
Sanctions were warranted where counsel engaged in three broad categories of improper conduct during depositions which included interposing hundreds of "form" objections, many of which stated no recognized basis for objection, repeatedly objecting and interjecting in ways that coached the witness to give a particular answer or to unnecessarily quibble with the examiner, and excessively interrupting the depositions that counsel defended, thereby frustrating and delaying the fair examination of witnesses. "Form" objections are inefficient and frustrate the goals underlying the Federal Rules. The Rules contemplate that objections should be concise and afford the examiner the opportunity to cure the objection.
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