The purpose of discovery is to take the “game” element out of trial preparation by enabling the parties to obtain evidence necessary to evaluate and resolve their dispute before a trial is necessary.  Weil and Brown, Cal. Prac. Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (TRG 2018) ¶8:1 citing Greyhound Corp. v. Superior Court (1961) 55 C.2d. 335, 376.

Serving “[a]ppropriate written interrogatories are one of the means to accomplish the general goals of the discovery process designed to facilitate a fair trial.” (Juarez v. Boy Scouts of America, Inc. (2000) 81 CA4th 377, 389)

“Interrogatories expedite the resolution of lawsuits … [by detecting] sham claims and defenses … [and] may be employed to support a motion for summary judgment or a motion to specify those issues which are without substantial controversy.”  Deyo v. Kilbourne (1978) 84 CA3d 771, 779

When responding to interrogatories, the Discovery Act requires a party to make a reasonable and good faith effort to obtain the information before responding to the interrogatories. Regency Health Services, Inc. v. Superior Court (1998) 64 CA4th 1496.  A party cannot plead ignorance to information, which can be obtained from sources under his control. Deyo v. Kilbourne (1978) 84 CA3d 771, 782  This includes a party’s lawyer Smith v. Superior Court (Alfred) (1961) 189 CA2d 6, agents or employees Gordon v. Sup. Ct.  (1984) 161 CA 3d 151, 167-168, family members Jones v. Superior Court  (1981) 119 CA 3d 534, 552. See Weil and Brown, Cal. Prac. Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (TRG 2018) ¶8:1051-1060.  This means that an attorney can’t just pawn off the responses to the client or spend an hour and dictate the responses off the top of his head.  See Sinaiko Healthcare Consulting, Inc. v. Pacific Healthcare Consultants (2007) 148 CA4th 390.

Unfortunately, the propounding party often receives responses to their interrogatories that include a “General Objection” or a “Preliminary Statement”, which is improper, and garbage objections with no substantive responses. Responding parties even use garbage objections to Form Interrogatories which were drafted by the California Judicial Council (The Administrative Office of the Courts) and considered objection proof as to form.   See Weil and Brown, Cal. Prac. Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (TRG 2018) ¶8:933.

It is patently obvious ungrounded refusal to answer, prolonged delay and incorrect answers to interrogatories seriously inhibit “the principal aim of discovery procedures in general [which] is to assist counsel to prepare for trial….”  Smith v. Circle P. Ranch Company, et al. (1978) 87 Cal.App.3d 267, 273.

Bring your motion to compel further responses to interrogatories as you are entitled to proper responses and, hopefully, the court will make it clear to the responding party that such abuse of the discovery process will not be tolerated.

 

I received a comment about one of my blogs saying:

Many young(er) attorneys abuse discovery as a matter of course – as if they have been taught how to be obstructionists at law school. I also think newer attorneys do the scorched earth route to create more billing.  One dope sent me objections that were over 100 pages.

I have written many blogs regarding how to handle discovery abuse by opposing counsel.  These include filing motions to compel further responses, filing motions for protective orders and how to recover sanctions.

Continue Reading DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR OBLIGATIONS ARE IN RESPONDING TO WRITTEN DISCOVERY?

Have you ever had a situation where the opposing side has responded to each of your document production requests with the response?

All responsive documents within the custody and control of responding party will be produced.

and then they dump thousands of documents on you with no rhyme or reason as to how they are organized.

You then diligently send your meet and confer letter stating that the  documents are so disorganized that you “can’t make heads or tails as to which documents are responsive to which request.”  Opposing counsel responds saying that the document production was in compliance with the code as the documents were produced “as they are kept in the usual course of business” and they will neither modify their response nor the production.  So what do you do?

Continue Reading A Needle in a Haystack – When Opposing Party Dumps Documents

A close-up of a Baseball or Softball Home Plate Umpire

Recently I received an e-mail from an attorney who followed my advice regarding General Objections.  It went like this:

“I read your article ‘Why you Need to Bring a Motion to Strike General Objections,’ and filed a ‘Motion to Strike Defendants’ Preliminary Statement and Unmeritorious Objections.’  The Preliminary Statement contained many of the issues you pointed out in your article, and each of defendants’ responses to interrogatories and document requests contained the same 28 lines of objections.  The court then separated the motions to compel from the motions to strike and refused to rule on the motion to strike stating “There is no such motion.” Is the court correct?”

Continue Reading DISCOVERY GAMES AND MISCONCEPTIONS – Is the Court Correct That There is No Motion to Strike in Discovery?

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Several times per month I receive questions from attorneys regarding a discovery dilemma.  Mostly the questions offer a novel twist on basic discovery.  However, this latest query was quirkier than most and raised some interesting issues and misconceptions, so I thought I would share it with you.   It went like this:

I served written discovery on a cross-defendant in a case, we are one of the defendants.  Cross-defendant (represented by, the plaintiff’s counsel) has appeared in this case by way of demurrer.  Cross-Defendant has refused to answer for the following reasons, (1) my clients are not parties to the cross-complaint so therefore we cannot propound discovery; (2) the court sustained the demurrer with leave to amend and the amended cross-complaint will be filed shortly by the cross-complainant; and (3) the cross-defendant lives in Europe and I need to go through the Hague Convention.  I don’t think any of these are legitimate reasons for not responding to discovery.

Continue Reading DISCOVERY GAMES AND MISCONCEPTIONS – Are These Objections Legitimate?

young man and young woman with camera

 

For years, parties have videotaped both the deponent as well as the lawyer asking the questions during a deposition.  The purpose is to provide a split screen video to the jury at trial which would simultaneously show the questioner and the deponent in real time.  But is it permissible?  As demonstrated below, the answer is “No”, unless the parties stipulate or the court orders it upon the showing of good cause. Continue Reading Can I Videotape Opposing Counsel During a Deposition?

Can we talk?

As a mediator, there is always a case that you question yourself as to what you could you could have done differently in order to resolve the matter.  My case involved a personal injury case.  It appeared to be straightforward, as the defendant had admitted liability and the plaintiff ended up having surgery allegedly because of the accident.  Unfortunately, the mediation process went sideways before the mediation even began.  While introducing myself to the defense attorney who had arrived first, he said

I’d like to get to the point and save some time and money.  If they aren’t willing to take (25% of the cost of the surgery), then let’s end this and have a nice lunch.

Continue Reading Are You Ready For Mediation? Part 2–The Ten Commandments

iStock_000008477093SmallI have always been a strong advocate that you should be awarded sanctions if you had to bring a motion to get the relief you were entitled to even if the other side complied prior to the hearing on the motion.  However in the case of Evilsizor v. Sweeney (2014) 230 CA4th 1304, the First District Court of Appeal had an interesting take on the issue.

Continue Reading Should you withdraw your motion if the other side has complied?

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During my seminar on “Sanctions Denied,” I was asked how do you handle discovery abuse when it is part of a deep pocket defendant’s litigation strategy.  His story went like this:

Plaintiff’s counsel had been to court several times on motions to compel documents and motions to compel further documents from an international Corporation.  The court’s most recent order was that the documents were to be served two weeks before the corporation’s person most knowledgeable depositions were to take place in London.   Instead defendant produced 30,000 documents on a CD less than 24 hours before the London depositions were to begin.   Plaintiff counsel went forward with the depositions as trial was in a month and his client could not afford for the lawyer to go to London another time.  Plaintiff counsel expressed his frustrations that even though the court gave him $6000 in sanctions he was severely handicapped in his preparation for the depositions and it impacted on what evidence he could obtain before trial.

Even though this is an extreme example, it is not unusual.  The real question is what could he have done and what should you do if you find yourself in this situation.

Continue Reading When Discovery Abuse is a Trial Strategy

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Last week I received a phone call from an attorney asking what is the authority that says a party has the right to conduct discovery.  I responded, “The Discovery Act!”  Counsel stated that they needed more because a special master in their construction defect case refused to allow them to serve discovery and was demanding authority to prove that they had such a right.  I thought it was such a basic concept in civil litigation that I was amazed that it even was an issue.

I went to the discovery treatises in order to provide the attorney with authority.  I reviewed Weil and Brown California Practice Guide Civil Procedure Before Trial (TRG 2013), California Civil Discovery (Hogan and Weber 2013) California Discovery Citations (TRG 2013) and California Civil Discovery Practice (CEB 2013).  The CEB treatise had the best discussion regarding a party’s right to discovery in a civil action.  The following is an excerpt from the book: Continue Reading You Have The Right To Conduct Discovery!!