Effective January 1, 2013 and subject to certain exceptions, the duration of a witness deposition was limited to seven hours of total testimony. (CCP §2025.290(a).) The limitation brought the California statute consistent with existing federal law, which has a similar seven-hour rule. (See FRCP Rule 30(d)(1))
CCP §2025.290(b) sets forth six circumstances where the seven-hour limit does not apply–by stipulation, expert witnesses, complex cases, employment cases, person most knowledgeable depositions, and a new party to case when the deposition has already concluded.
However, the seven-hour rule is not entirely rigid, and it does not give the court unfettered discretion in shaping its application.
CCP §2025.290 is also consistent with FRCP Rule 30(d)(1) as it states:
The court SHALL allow additional time, beyond any limits, if needed to fairly examine the deponent or if the deponent, another person, or any other circumstance impedes or delays the examination. [emphasis added]
In Certaineed Corp. v. Superior Court (2014) 222 CA4th 1053, the Second District Court of Appeal found that:
“The court may order extended time for depositions beyond the limits in CCP §2025.290(a), including the 2-day limit in CCP §2025.290(b)(3), and MUST DO SO if additional time is needed to fairly examine the deponent and no other reason exists to limit the deposition.” California Civil Discovery Practice (CEB 2018) [Emphasis added]
To deny a party the right to “fairly examine the deponent” defeats the basic purpose of discovery which is to“educate the parties concerning their claims and defenses” and to “avoid surprise” at trial. See Emerson Electric Co. v. Superior Court (1997) 16 C4th 1101, 1107 citing Greyhound Corp v Superior Court (1961) 56 C2d 355, 376] and Fairmont Ins. Co. v Superior Court (2000) 22 C4th 245, 253