Businessman signing a document.

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.


Continue Reading Without Consent of the Parties . . .


 

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?
Continue Reading Why Every Insurance Carrier Should Insist That The New Construction Form Interrogatories Be Used

Somewhere in the back of your mind you are aware that discovery and Motions for Summary Judgment deadlines are looming. Yet, you really don’t pay attention to them until they are upon us usually around day 45 when you start trying to schedule experts. That is when you realize there are not enough hours in the day and days in the week. Unless you have a case that is a simple slip and fall or a fender bender, the last 100 days before trial can be daunting. Throw in a Motion for Summary Judgment or Summary Adjudication into the mix and you’re swamped. Then there is the ultimate question you ask yourself, “When am I going to find time to prepare for trial.”

The Code of Civil Procedure timeline regarding deadlines for expert disclosure, close of discovery and the last day discovery motions can be heard is demonstrated below.  Seeing it scheduled in black and white is kind of scary.
Continue Reading Discovery Plan Part 4 — The Year Before Trial

Last November I received the following e-mail:

Since courts are so overwhelmed and setting dates for hearing is now running 6 months or longer, how does one do motions to compel further responses to interrogatories in a meaningful way? I booked the first available date with the court, but it is not until next June and I need the responses in order to know what documents to request. Any ideas?

It is unfortunate that the California budget crisis has so imploded civil litigation in our courts. Despite the fact that discovery is the heart and soul or your case and you are entitled to compliance with your discovery requests; law and motion departments typically give discovery motions the lowest priority on their calendar. So, what do you do?
Continue Reading Is It Time to Appoint a Discovery Referee?

In many cases mediation is the most cost-efficient and effective method of resolving a case. Often, litigants can save a lot of money and time when mediation is held after first tier discovery has been completed, once the core facts are determined that circumscribe the dispute. In order to facilitate early resolution many courts have implemented mediation programs and asked mediators to volunteer their time. Unfortunately, many mediators are become very discouraged with these programs because many times the parties are not prepared.
Continue Reading DISCOVERY PLAN PART 3–Are You Ready for Mediation?

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.
Continue Reading You Have The Right To Conduct Discovery!!

On February 22, 2012 Assemblyman Mike Gatto introduced Assembly Bill 1875 which would add §2025.290 to the California Code of Civil Procedure. If the bill is passed it would limit the time to take a deposition. The proposed new section would read:

Unless otherwise stipulated to or ordered by the court, a deposition is limited to one day of seven hours. The court shall allow additional time if needed to fairly examine the deponent or if the deponent, another person, or any other circumstance impedes or delays the examination.
Continue Reading Can You Take a Deposition in Seven Hours?

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?”
Continue Reading “I DECLARE, IT IS NECESSARY”

Your clients have been sued by their insurance company for Declaratory Relief. The insurer asserts that there is no coverage under your clients’ liability insurance policy for a claim made against them. In deciding how to proceed, there are a few things to remember in dealing with insurance litigation. First, the duty to defend is a legal question based upon the “potential” that the lawsuit against your client could result in damages covered by the insurance policy. Montrose Chemical Corp. v. Superior Court (1995) 6 Cal. 4th 287, 300 (pdf). For the duty to defend, therefore, think summary judgment, rather than trial. Second, for indemnity (actual coverage): is the carrier defending or not? With regard to indemnity, whether the insurance company is defending affects the burden of proof. Ultimately, the insured should be prepared to prove, in order to recover indemnity or settlement costs, that their liability is in fact covered by the insurance policy.
Continue Reading The First 120 Days of Insurance Litigation