In light of the recent decision in Toyota Motor Corporation v. Superior Court (July 27, 2011) 197 Cal. App. 4th 1107, corporate employers with employees located outside California will have to decide whether to agree to send any out-of-state employees to California for future Person Most Qualified/Knowledgeable depositions.

Prior to 2011, if a party noticed a Person Most Qualified/Knowledgeable deposition of a corporate party, a corporation was previously thought to be obligated pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure section 2025.250, subparts (b), (c), and (d) to produce its PMQ/PMK in California within 75 miles of the organization’s principal office, or if the corporation had no principal office, within the California county where the action was pending.

The Toyota Motor decision, however, now casts doubt regarding whether out-of-state employees can be compelled to travel to California for deposition. Toyota Motor held that employees of Toyota residing in Japan could not be compelled to travel to California for deposition pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure section 2025.260 (which allows a party to move for a court order compelling the deposition of an individual to occur in a place more distant than that permitted by section 2025.250, i.e., for a natural person, within 75 miles of the person’s residence). The Toyota Motor court reasoned that if an out-of-state witness could not be compelled to testify in California at trial due to the limitations of Code of Civil Procedure section 1989 (which provide that a witness is not obliged to attend trial in California “unless the witness is a resident within the state at the time of service”), then the same logic also prevented a party from compelling an out-of-state witness to participate in a deposition in California.

Although the Toyota Motor court spent the entire opinion laying out its rationale for eliminating the ability of parties to compel out-of-state natural person witness to participate in California depositions, footnote 20 of the opinion specifically states that its analysis and conclusions should not be extended to depositions where the party is not a natural person (ie., PMQ/PMK depositions).

A strong argument, therefore, can now be made in either direction where a party does not want to produce PMQ/PMK’s who reside out-of-state. The corporation can argue that the logic of Toyota Motor should clearly be extended to such depositions insofar as there no practical difference in having to produce a specific out-of-state individual whose deposition was noticed, as opposed to an individual identified by the corporation as its PMQ/PMK. In both cases, the party testifying is an individual. On the flip side, the party noticing the deposition can argue that since the Toyota Motor court limited its opinion to exclude PMQ/PMK testimony, that the law at this time requires PMQ/PMKs to appear in California.

At some point this issue will be cleared up by future Appellate/Supreme Court decisions. Until that time, however, corporate employers will have to make a strategic decision regarding whether contesting the location of the deposition is worth the time, expense, etc.