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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

When can I subpoena a corporate officer?

I was recently asked a good question regarding corporate law. I thought I would share my answer here:

In Virginia I have a case where the named defendant is a corporation. We would like to depose the president of that company. My first thought was since he is not a named defendant we should subpoena him to the deposition. The opposing corporation said they would have him (president) there without the need of a subpoena, but only if we filed a "corporate" Notice to take his deposition? Has anyone heard of a "corporate" Notice? My thoughts are let's subpoena him and do a regular Notice. Please advise.

Alright -- I understand your confusion! Let me clarify a couple of points for you, and I think it will make sense. We handle quite a few civil litigation cases involving companies, and it is not uncommon to face what you are just now attempting to grasp.

Generally, when you want information about what and how a corporation acts, or what the corporation has done, you serve notice on the corporation for a deposition. Because the corporation itself is not an individual (obviously!), the company must send a representative, of the company's choosing, to be present at the deposition and answer your questions. The corporation has the right to select their own person, however, the individual sent must be able to answer the questions you are seeking. For this reason, it is common to outline the thrust of your inquiry when serving the corporation so they can send the right person (again, obviously). If you don't let them know what the nature (in general terms is fine) of your inquiry, they can't send the right person...and you usually waste a lot of time.

If you want a specific person to answer questions, then you must serve that person with a subpoena individually. However, if the person is protected behind the corporate veil, they have may present a valid motion to object to the subpoena, and you'll have to demonstrate why this person, and no other, is the right person to question in regards to the corporate matter. Remember, corporations can select their own person to send to a deposition -- they are not bound by what you want (so long as that person can answer the questions). Often, for this reason, the CEO, or other officers involved with the suit, are named in the actual filing. This ensures that they have to respond as party opponents and cannot hide behind the corporation. For the same reason, you will often find that corporations seek to remove named officers from suits ASAP to avoid just this problem (usually through some form of judgment on the pleadings prior to discovery being had).

You can beat a motion to quash your subpoena...sometimes. That's an entirely different kettle of fish -- and takes a bit of work. But don't be surprised to see such a motion if you try to get someone who lives behind the corporate veil.

If you need help with a civil case, give us a call! Glad to discuss the details and see what assistance we can provide. 703-402-2723 or 1-800-579-9864.

Hanover Law, PC
Offices in Fairfax, VA and Washington, DC
www.hanoverlawpc.com Lili O'connell, Esq.
Abby Archer, Esq.
888 16th St., NW Ste 800
Washington, DC 20006
2751 Prosperity Ave, Ste 150
Fairfax, VA 22031
Sean R. Hanover, Esq.
Stephen Salwierak, Esq.
1-800-579-9864 admin@hanoverlawpc.com Charles Hatley, Esq.

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