Tatman v. Collins

938 F.2d 509 (4th Cir. 1991)



Fed. R. Civ. P. 32 provides that a deposition may be offered at trial, subject to the rules of evidence, as though the witness were present and testifying, and no distinction is now made in the rule with respect to the purpose for which the deposition was taken. While the rule makes distinctions in the circumstances when depositions of parties and witnesses may be used, Fed. R. Civ. P. 32(a)(3) provides that when a witness is unavailable as therein provided, the deposition of the witness may be used for any purpose. 


Plaintiff’s husband died from a cerebral aneurysm one year after defendant employee struck the husband’s automobile with a tractor-trailer. Plaintiff filed an action against defendants, employee and employer, claiming that the husband’s death was causally linked to the injuries sustained in the accident. During discovery, a treating physician was deposed stating that there was a causal connection between the injuries sustained in the accident and the subsequent rupturing of the aneurysm. The district court excluded the physician’s deposition because it was taken only for discovery purposes, and that the witness was within 100 miles of the borders of the district. The appellate court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial.


Was the district court correct to exclude a deposition offered by plaintiff in a wrongful death claim because it was taken only for discovery purposes and the witness was within the 100 miles from the courthouse?




The grounds given by the trial court for the exclusion of the deposition were in error. The trial court could not exclude the deposition on the basis that it was a discovery deposition.  Furthermore, the trial court erred in interpreting Fed. R. Civ. P. 32(a)(3)(B) that the absent witness to be more than 100 miles from the border of the district rather than more than 100 miles from the courthouse.

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