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Schneider v. Citimortgage, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

December 22, 2017

RANDALL A. SCHNEIDER and AMY L. SCHNEIDER Plaintiffs,
v.
CITIMORTGAGE, INC., et. al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          SAM A. CROW, U.S. DISTRICT SENIOR JUDGE.

         This case comes before the court on the plaintiffs' motion for review (ECF# 509) of the magistrate judge's order (ECF# 503) filed October 30, 2017. This order denied the plaintiffs' motion which had asked for the defendant Citigroup, Inc.'s (“Citigroup's”) designated corporate representative to be found unprepared for the Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6) deposition that occurred on June 13, 2017. In seeking review, the plaintiffs argue the magistrate judge erred, because Mr. Jason Cramer, the witness designated and produced by Citigroup, lacked personal experience with Citigroup as a corporation, was not given full access to Citigroup information, and was acquainted only with information provided by Citigroup's counsel which was “publicly available information on financial statements.” ECF# 510, p. 4. In short, the plaintiffs argue that Mr. Cramer was not capable of testifying, as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 30(b)(6), “about information known or reasonably available to the organization, ” because he lacked experience specific to the plaintiffs' claims, and because he was not provided with the necessary preparation and documents so as to testify on the six court-ordered topics.

         A magistrate judge's order addressing non-dispositive pretrial matters is not reviewed de novo, but it is reviewed under the more deferential standard in which the moving party must show the order is “clearly erroneous or contrary to the law.” First Union Mortg. Corp. v. Smith, 229 F.3d 992, 995 (10th Cir. 2000) (quoting Ocelot Oil Corp. v. Sparrow Industries, 847 F.2d 1458, 1461-62 (10th Cir. 1988)); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). The clearly erroneous standard governs review of the magistrate judge's factual findings and requires affirming such findings unless the court “on the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” See Allen v. Sybase, Inc., 468 F.3d 642, 658 (10th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). The contrary to the law standard governs review of the magistrate judge's “purely legal determinations, ” and authorizes setting aside an order that fails to apply the correct legal standard or that misapplies the correct legal standard determined from the relevant statutes, case law, or rules of procedures. Auman v. State of Kansas, 2017 WL 3977855, at *2 (D. Kan. Sep. 11, 2017) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The plaintiffs' motion fails its burden of showing that the magistrate judge's order is clearly erroneous or contrary to the law.

         In his order, the magistrate judge outlined the protracted procedural history that eventually culminated in the deposition of Mr. Cramer, a director of CitiMortgate, on the following six topics allowed by the court:

10. The role and relationship of CitiGroup, Inc. to each Defendant
(CitiMortgage, CitiBank, f.k.a. CitiCorpTrust Bank, Primerica) and CitiAssurance (the PWP administrator or the a.k.a., American Health and Life Insurance Company) during the time of the Schneider's 2007 loan or 2010 refinance.
42rr. Whether and, if so, what involvement Citigroup had in the servicing of the Loan.
43ss. Whether and, if so, what involvement Citigroup had in communicating with the Schneiders following their application in or around May 2010 to refinance the Loan with Citibank.
44tt. Whether and, if so, what involvement Citigroup had in evaluating the Schneiders' application in or around May 2010 to refinance the Loan with Citibank.
45uu. The corporate structure as between CitiMortgage, Citibank, and Citigroup, and Primerica in 2007 through 2010.
46vv. All sources of direct and indirect revenue and total amount of revenue anticipated to be received by Citigroup in connection with the Schneiders' initial refinance loan application to Citibank in or around May 2010, if the application had been approved, and the percentage of income to be derived from the approved application.

ECF# 503, pp. 4-5). The magistrate judge understood the plaintiffs' arguments to be that Mr. Cramer was not prepared to address “many” of the topics, was not provided sufficient information to answer, was simply guessing at some answers, and was inaccurate and conflicted with “actual documents.” Id. at 5.

         The magistrate judge plainly articulated and applied the correct Rule 30(b)(6) requirements noting that a designated witness is “to testify about information known or reasonably available to the organization, ” that the testimony “represents the knowledge of the corporation, not of the individual deponents, ” and that it is the corporation's duty to designate a witness “who is knowledgeable in order to provide binding answers on behalf of the corporation.” Id. at pp. 5-6 (internal quotation marks and footnotes omitted). The plaintiffs argue the magistrate judge misapplied these legal standards by only judging Mr. Cramer's personal efforts rather than assessing whether Mr. Cramer was knowledgeable on behalf of Citigroup despite his lack of experience and his limited contact with corporate knowledge and documents of Citigroup. There is nothing in the magistrate judge's decision showing a misapplication of legal standards. Rather, the decision reflects a reasoned application of the proper legal standards:

With regard to Citigroup's involvement with the servicing of the loan or the refinance application, Mr. Cramer testified that Citigroup did not service plaintiffs' loan or interact with plaintiffs concerning their request for refinancing. He testified that Citigroup was a bank holding company, and as such, it is the corporate vehicle for financial reporting and public disclosures on behalf of itself and other Citi entities. He confirmed on numerous occasions that Citigroup does not originate or service mortgage loans. In making these statements, Mr. Cramer indicated that he ...

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