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.


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I 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.


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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.
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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. Nonetheless, I went to the discovery treatises to find the answer.
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Over lunch last week, a local attorney was complaining to me about his case that is going to trial in July. On the last day to serve written discovery, Plaintiff counsel had served each of his five clients, on behalf of each of her three plaintiffs, a separate set of 50 specially prepared interrogatories, 35 requests for documents, 70 requests for admissions and 17.1 of the Form Interrogatories for a total 750 specially prepared interrogatories and 525 requests for documents, 1050 requests for admissions and 4200 responses to Form Interrogatory 17.1 equaling 6525 discovery requests to be responded to 30 days before trial.

After his rant, I said to him that “You Need to file a motion for a protective order.” It was clear to me that the discovery was retaliatory, either because the case didn’t settle the week before at mediation, or that the opposing counsel was a nut job, or perhaps a little of both. Whatever the reason behind this absurd amount of discovery, he needed to file a motion for a protective order.
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Today I read a great article by Minnesota attorney Randall Ryder titled New Attorney? Don’t Get Intimidated by Opposing Counsel. The article struck a cord with me as it is a proponent of the same philosophy that I am advocating in my own blog–don’t be intimidated by a bully, do not react with words in kind and use the “Rules” to win. Here it is and I hope it hits a cord with you too.
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Last spring I had the pleasure of taking a tour of the Royal Globe Theatre in London, England. On display there was a plaque titled “Quoting Shakespeare.” It brought a smile to my face when I read the passage as I realized how much of Shakespeare is in our everyday vernacular. There to I realized how many distinctive quotes there that I use over and over again as a Discovery Referee. Here are a few that you should keep handy to sprinkle into your arguments during your discovery battles.
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As every lawyer is aware, a party may propound more than 35 specially prepared interrogatories or requests for admissions simply by attaching a Declaration of Necessity pursuant to C.C.P. §2030.040 and C.C.P. §2033.040 stating the reasons why they need more. See C.C.P. §2030.050 and C.C.P. §2033.050. However, when you receive more than 35 specially prepared interrogatories or requests for admissions, you should ask yourself the question “IS IT REALLY NECESSARY?”
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Growing up in an Italian household, our dinners consisted of salad, pasta, wine and an argument. Afterwards we all went out for ice cream with no thoughts of the argument that took place at the dinner table. That is because we thought of arguments as a sport and there was no reason to hold any grudges. However, when I became a lawyer I was surprised to find that lawyers did hold grudges despite the fact that law by its nature is an adversarial process and we are professional arguers.
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