Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Do you know? Employee witness statements

Last week I discussed opposing counsel’s ability to interview your company’s current and former employees, even during active litigation. Today, I’ll discuss how you can get your hands on those witness statements without having your counsel engage in expensive discovery fights over work product issues.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(3)(C) states:

Previous Statement. Any party or other person may, on request and without the required showing, obtain the person’s own previous statement about the action or its subject matter. If the request is refused, the person may move for a court order, and Rule 37(a)(5) applies to the award of expenses. A previous statement is either:

     (i) a written statement that the person has signed or otherwise adopted or approved; or

     (ii) a contemporaneous stenographic, mechanical, electrical, or other recording – or a transcription of it – that recites substantially verbatim the person's oral statement.

The catch – you have to be in federal court. Ohio’s parallel rule is limited to statements of parties only.

If you are in federal court, anyone who previously gave a written or recorded statement to an attorney has a right to receive a copy of that statement upon request. What does this rule mean for employers? It is in your best interest to maintain good relations with all current and former employees. You cannot stop an employee from talking to a plaintiff’s attorney, but you can prod that employee to request a copy of his or her statement. What do you think the likelihood is of an employee with whom you have a bad relationship helping you out?

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or jth@kjk.com.