If I sue Tesla, do I get to depose Elon Musk? Probably not. But why? Before 2021, Florida lawyers would likely point to Florida’s procedural rules and predict that the court would issue a protective order to prevent the company’s president from having to sit for a deposition in run-of-the-mill suits against the company. Now, however, Florida lawyers can point to Fla. R. Civ. P. 1.280(h), which codifies the “apex doctrine.”

At its core, the apex doctrine is a protective doctrine that requires a litigant seeking to depose a high-ranking government or corporate official to show the official has some unique personal knowledge about the issues being litigated and the information cannot be obtained elsewhere. The doctrine dates back to United States v. Morgan, 313 U.S. 409 (1941), where the court held that permitting the deposition of the Secretary of Agriculture was erroneous. The court reasoned that inquiry into a high-level government official’s decision-making infringed upon the independence of the administrative process. Since Morgan, the apex doctrine has evolved differently in state and federal courts.

The Florida Supreme Court Adopts the Apex Doctrine