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At the 22nd Annual West Coast Casualty Seminar, Plaintiff counsel Michael Kennedy, General Contractor Counsel Matthew Hawk, Subcontractor Counsel Brian Sanders, Claims Manager James Rzpecki and I presented a new protocol for how to litigate construction defect cases. This new protocol is in compliance with the Code of Civil Procedure as well as the current case law.  But, more importantly these new Case Management Orders address the concerns that the parties have with the current process and provides them with admissible evidence in order to adequately evaluate their case and  be prepared to have a meaningful mediation within six months of the litigation.
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If you perform a Lexis search using the words “Special Master” in the Code of Civil Procedure you will find “no results.” This is because there is no statutory authority for such an appointment. Yet, in the area of Construction Litigation the parties regularly stipulate and the courts appoint a Special Master to handle the case management, discovery rulings and settlement conferences under a Case Management Order.


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John Podesta, an insurance coverage attorney in San Francisco, brings us his perspective on why the Form Interrogatories for Construction Defect should be used. John has handled hundreds of coverage cases  involving Construction litigation and other complex matters for over twenty years.  He is a nationally known speaker on Insurance Coverage issues in Construction and has written several articles on the subject.  He is also the author of the insurance Interrogatory 304.1 of Construction Litigation Form Interrogatories.

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It is generally recognized that construction defect cases are some of the most expensive, and complicated, cases being litigated in California.  I have personally been involved in cases with more than 75 payors contributing to a settlement, including contractors, insurers, and sureties.  I have witnessed them from the beginning of the modern Special Master programs in the 1980’s through the single assignment Special Masters (both mediator and case management/discovery referee) and the dual reference (where the case manager/discovery referee and the mediator are separated) and cases with no outside supervision and the case is handled per the CCP.  In all these cases, the same question is asked by the carriers:  “How can we get these cases evaluated and resolved quicker and less expensively?”  And the related question: “If this is a case that needs to be tried how can we get to that decision point as soon as possible?
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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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I recently reviewed a case management order in a complex construction case venued in Southern California. The order required all parties to produce:

“Any and all relevant non-privileged and non-protected documents (consistent with California Evidence Code Section 250), including but not limited to job files, building contracts, agreements, notes, correspondence, photographs, videotapes, diagrams, plans, specifications, shop drawings, “as-built” plans, calculations, journals, invoices, purchase orders, change orders, addenda reports (including reports prepared by consultants and design professionals for the original construction), job diaries, receipts, project files, site records, daily job logs, field orders, superintendent reports, requests for clarification, requests for information, time cards, governmental inspection punch lists and sign off sheets and invoices relating to the construction, repair, or maintenance of the real property involved in this lawsuit.”

There are so many things wrong with this request I do not know where to begin.
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