This week, the Texas Supreme Court issued a stay order, staying the deposition of Lord Browne, the former CEO of British Petroleum. This was issued in response to the February 9, 2007 order of a lower appellate court that denied BP’s Petition for Writ of Mandamus to Quash the deposition. This is an issue I wrote about when it first arose last fall. See Taking the CEO's Deposition. This has been an on again – off again issue. The Supreme Court has asked for briefing and will likely entertain oral arguments on this issue. I will be surprised if the Supreme Court orders the deposition to go forward. This is a very pro-business Supreme Court. In addition, current authority strongly supports the BP position on this issue.
From my observations, I don’t think the Plaintiffs really care whether they get Lord Browne’s deposition or not. BP has already stipulated to liability for the explosion and any potential punitive damages are subject to a very strict cap. The real strategy here is to make life as uncomfortable as possible for BP and its lawyers to drive a better bargain in settlement. So far this strategy has been very effective. Every time this issue comes up, more cases are settled. The two cases that were set for trial on Monday were just settled. Although the settlements are confidential, I am sure they were very favorable for the Plaintiffs.
I look for some type of agreement to be reached to postpone the deposition of Lord Browne further. This takes the decision out of the Supreme Court’s hands and leaves the potential for a future deposition still available. The last thing the Plaintiffs want is a ruling from the Supreme Court on this issue. A ruling from the Supreme Court would most likely be against the Plaintiffs and once it is handed down, the threat of Lord Browne’s deposition is over.
For more on apex depositions in Texas see In re Daisy Manufacturing, 17 S.W.3d 654 (Tex. 2000).