Louisiana Court of Appeal, Fourth Circuit Modifies Trial Court’s Denial of Motion to Quash Trial Subpoenas

LOUISIANA – In McMaster v. Union Carbide Corp., et al, pending in the Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit, plaintiff Ronald McMaster filed suit against various defendants alleging that he was exposed to asbestos while employed at Gulf Oil from 1978 to 1980. The plaintiff requested that the clerk of court issue trial subpoenas to multiple corporate defendants, but did not specify the names of any witnesses sought for examination, nor the subject matter of which the witnesses would be examined. Two defendants filed motions to quash the subpoenas, which were denied at a trial court hearing. The two defendants filed a written application for a review of the decision.

In its review of the trial court decision, the court referenced the trial court’s reliance on Hayden v. 3M Co., 16-1030 (La. App. 4 Cir. 2/3/17) 211 So. 3d 528, in determining that the trial subpoenas were enforceable. In their appeal, the two defendants argued that the trial court’s ruling “would illogically subject a defendant to producing an unidentified individual for trial, under the guise of producing a corporate representative, without the benefit of identification of the subject matter for the witnesses testimony, and without the protections from repeated production of corporate representatives provided by the Louisiana Supreme Court in Johnson v. Asbestos Corp., 00-0138 (La. 03/17/00), 755 So. 2d 892.” The court did not agree with this argument, but rather found the defendants’ argument that the subpoenas failed to identify specific topics to be addressed by the corporate representatives at trial.

The court acknowledged that there was a lack of statutory or jurisprudential authority for allowing Louisiana Laws Code of Civil Procedure: CCP 1442-type designation of areas of inquiry in the trial context. However, the court held that the appropriate remedy, as an alternative to quashing the trial subpoenas, was to modify the trial court’s ruling to require that the defendants produce a corporate representative at trial only if the plaintiff first identified specific topics for the representative testimony. The defendants requested that the plaintiff must limit the specific topics to those on which the defendants’ prior representatives had not testified, but the court declined to enforce this request. The court modified the trial court’s ruling in part, requiring the plaintiff to identify specific topics on which the two defendants’ corporate witnesses were compelled to testify.

Read the case decision here.