Can a Party be Asked Settlement Questions During Deposition?

“How much money do you want for your injuries?”  “Do you want your insurance company to settle this case against you?”  Are these lines of questioning proper for a deposition?  The second variant arose in Lira-Rivera v. Montalvo,[1] where the plaintiff argued the insured’s “deposition testimony stating that he wanted his insurer to resolve the matter and compensate Montalvo, demonstrates that Lira-Rivera’s defense counsel rejected the arbitration award and requested a trial de novo without his client’s approval.”[2]

Lira-Rivera v. Montalvo was not asked to determine if this type of questioning was appropriate.  I have not come personally encountered it or had a reason to research how courts might rule on it.  But from a practical perspective, how is that questioning relevant to the case?  How is it going to lead to anything remotely admissible?  Some reader might respond “relevance is not a valid objection at a deposition. So I can ask anything I want.”  I disagree.  The question itself may not expressly ask for attorney-client communications or even work-product, but the answer may delve into these areas.  The defending attorney may need to object, state a conditional objection, and advise the client that she may answer but only to the extent the answer does not arise from discussions with the lawyer.  Another reader might respond “speaking objections are not allowed!”  Generally yes, but in this circumstance the objection is attempting to determine whether to assert a privilege, so it is probably appropriate.  The defending attorney might be permitted to stop the deposition to determine whether to assert a privilege.

The questioning may also be within NRCP 37(d)(3)(A)’s grounds to terminate a deposition.  Although I might not terminate the deposition entirely, I might instruct the witness not to answer on those grounds.  The caveat is doing that would then also require me to file a motion for protective order once the transcript became available.

Is the questioning appropriate?  I don’t know, but it seems like a fertile topic for motion practice and too much work for seemingly no benefit.

[1] No. 72297, 2018 Nev. App. Unpub. LEXIS 182 (Ct. App. March 22, 2018).
[2] A rather big assumption that the Court rejected.  “While we question the inferential link between those propositions, we need only point out that neither the district court nor Montalvo cited any authority in support of the notion that an insured must personally desire and request a trial de novo before his insurer-provided counsel may, in good faith, request such relief, and we know of no such authority.”