Florida Business Lawyer: Non-Party Witness - Subpoena Duces Tecum

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Quashing a civil subpoena duces tecum with deposition as a non-party witness in Florida involves several legal steps and considerations. Keep in mind that legal matters can be complex, and it is strongly advisable to consult with an attorney for personalized guidance. Below is a comprehensive guide on how to approach this situation:

Step 1: Understand the Basics

Before you proceed, it's essential to have a clear understanding of the key terms and concepts involved:

  • Subpoena Duces Tecum: This is a legal document that commands a person (or entity) to produce certain documents, records, or evidence in a legal proceeding.
  • Non-Party Witness: In this context, you are not directly involved in the lawsuit, but you have information or documents relevant to the case.

Step 2: Hire an Attorney

While it's possible to represent yourself in legal matters, having an attorney who specializes in civil litigation is highly recommended. They can provide tailored advice and handle the legal process on your behalf.

Step 3: Receive the Subpoena

When you receive a subpoena duces tecum, carefully review its contents. It should specify what documents or information you are required to produce and the date, time, and location of the deposition. And keep in mind it isn’t always correct – by rule you have 30 days… don’t be bullied into 10 days.

Step 4: Consult with Your Attorney

Discuss the subpoena with your attorney as soon as possible. They will help you determine whether you have valid grounds to quash (challenge) the subpoena. Common grounds for quashing a subpoena may include:

  • Lack of relevance: If the requested documents or information are not relevant to the case.
  • Undue burden: If complying with the subpoena would impose an unreasonable burden on you, such as requiring extensive travel or expense.
  • Privilege: If the documents are protected by attorney-client privilege, work product privilege, or another legal privilege.
  • Privacy concerns: If producing the requested information would violate your privacy rights or confidential information.

Step 5: File a Motion to Quash

If you and your attorney decide that there are valid grounds to challenge the subpoena, your attorney will file a "Motion to Quash" with the court. This motion will outline the reasons why the subpoena should be quashed.

There are several potential reasons to move to quash a civil subpoena duces tecum with deposition as a non-party witness in Florida. These reasons are based on legal grounds that may justify challenging the subpoena:

  1. Relevance: One of the primary reasons to move to quash a subpoena is if the requested documents or information are not relevant to the case at hand. If the documents have no bearing on the issues in the lawsuit, you may argue that the subpoena is overly broad or unduly burdensome.
  1. Undue Burden: If complying with the subpoena would impose an unreasonable burden on you, you can seek to quash it. This could include significant travel expenses, the need to produce a vast volume of documents, or the requirement to take time off work that would result in financial hardship.
  1. Privilege: If the documents or information sought by the subpoena are protected by a legal privilege, such as attorney-client privilege or work product privilege, you have a strong basis to quash. Privileged information is typically shielded from disclosure in legal proceedings.
  1. Confidentiality: If the subpoena would compel you to disclose confidential or sensitive information that should remain private, you can argue that it violates your rights to privacy or confidentiality.
  1. Overly Broad or Vague: If the language used in the subpoena is overly broad or vague, it may not provide sufficient clarity about what is being requested. In such cases, you can challenge the subpoena for lacking specificity.
  1. Harassment or Bad Faith: If you believe that the subpoena is issued in bad faith or for the purpose of harassment rather than to obtain legitimate evidence, you can move to quash it. Courts generally frown upon subpoenas used for improper purposes.
  1. Irregularities in Service: If there are procedural irregularities in how the subpoena was served, such as failure to serve it properly or within the required timeframes, you may have a valid reason to challenge its validity.
  1. Protection of Trade Secrets: If the requested documents contain trade secrets or proprietary information, you can argue that their disclosure would harm your business interests.
  1. Compliance with State and Federal Laws: Ensure that the subpoena complies with all relevant state and federal laws. For example, if the subpoena violates the Stored Communications Act or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), you can challenge it on legal grounds.
  1. No Opportunity to Object: If you were not provided with a reasonable opportunity to object to the subpoena before it was issued, you may have a basis for challenging it. Courts often require parties to negotiate and attempt to resolve disputes before issuing subpoenas.
  1. Standing: Ensure that you are indeed a non-party witness. If you can demonstrate that you are not involved in the lawsuit as a party and are merely a third party with information, this could be a reason to challenge the subpoena's validity.

To successfully move to quash a subpoena, it's crucial to work closely with an attorney who can assess the specific circumstances of your case and help you craft a compelling legal argument based on one or more of these reasons. Legal proceedings can be complex, and a knowledgeable attorney can guide you through the process while protecting your rights and interests.

Step 6: Attend the Hearing

After filing the motion, there will be a court hearing where both parties can present their arguments. Your attorney will represent you and explain why the subpoena should be quashed.

Step 7: Await the Court's Decision

The judge will review the arguments presented and make a decision on whether to quash the subpoena. If the subpoena is quashed, you may not be required to produce the requested documents or testify at the deposition.

Step 8: Comply if Necessary

If the court does not quash the subpoena, you will need to comply with its terms. This may involve producing the requested documents and appearing for the deposition as scheduled.

Step 9: Legal Costs and Fees

Consult with your attorney regarding any legal costs and fees associated with quashing the subpoena. In some cases, you may be able to recover these costs if the court rules in your favor.

Remember that each case is unique, and the specific steps and strategies may vary. Consult with your attorney to ensure you take the appropriate actions based on the circumstances of your case. Here at Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, we’re happy to offer a free consultation. If we can be of help, we’ll be happy to do so. Give us a call with any questions!

About the Author:

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Description automatically generated Chase Carpenter is a partner in the Business Division of Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A.. His practice revolves around business transactions and business litigation. Mr. Carpenter handles a wide range of cases including contract drafting, partnership disputes, commercial leases, and construction litigation. These cases encompass diverse industries, including healthcare, technology, real estate investment, and government contracting.

About the Firm:

The Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A., also known as MSD Business, is a local business law firm in Tampa, FL, serving clients throughout Fort Lauderdale and statewide. Our firm has a long history of helping clients navigate all types of complex legal matters, including local and state tax issues. In our business law practice, we assist clients with everything from mergers and acquisitions to contract disputes, business litigation, general counsel, and more.

Also, check out our Florida Sales Tax Division!


Fla. R. Civ P. 1.280(b)(6)

Bainter v. League of Women Voters of Fla., 150 So. 3d 1115 (Fla. 2014)