‘Apex deposition rule’ adopted in Toyota product liability case

From Lawyers USA:

Top officials of Toyota aren’t subject to being deposed in a product liability case alleging that defects caused the sudden acceleration of one of the company’s vehicles, the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled in vacating a discovery order.The plaintiff in Alberto v. Toyota filed a wrongful death suit against Toyota. She alleged that her husband was killed when his 2005 Toyota Camry suddenly accelerated to 80 mph and struck a tree.

During discovery, the plaintiff sought to depose Toyota’s chairman and president.

But the court adopted the “apex deposition rule” under which a plaintiff must demonstrate that the high-ranking corporate official in question has unique information relevant to the case that cannot be obtained through lower-ranking employees.

Applying the rule to this case, the court concluded that Toyota’s chairman and president lacked specific knowledge of sudden acceleration problems to justify their depositions.

“[The] plaintiff points to the fact that both [officials] have made public appearances to discuss Toyota’s safety difficulties and recall efforts. But no evidence before us demonstrates that, during those appearances, either officer demonstrated any actual knowledge, much less a unique or superior knowledge of design, engineering, manufacturing, or testing processes that went into the building of the subject vehicle, a 2005 Camry,” the court said.

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