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.
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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?
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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.
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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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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.
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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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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.
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Requests for admissions may be used to (1) establish the truth of specified facts, (2) admit a legal conclusion, (3) determine a party’s opinion relating to a fact, (4) settle a matter in controversy, and (5) admit the genuineness of documents. See C.C.P. §2033.010; Weil and Brown, Cal. Prac. Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (TRG 2010), ¶ 8:1288 – 8:1301.2; CEB California Civil Discovery Practice 4th Edition §§ 9:17 – 9:20. However that is all good and dandy, but how to write a Request for Admission in order to be effective evidence in a motion for summary judgment or at trial is difficult.
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You are within fifty days of trial and you are in receipt of defendant’s expert witness disclosure. She has three experts and you have three experts. All six of them need to be deposed in less than 35 days and you haven’t yet sent out a deposition notice. You pick up the phone and meet and confer with opposing counsel to select dates. During the conversation the attorney for the defendant states very adamantly

My expert will not be ready to testify until your expert testifies. Besides you are the plaintiff and you have to go first!

Heard this before? I have and there are some significant problems with defense counsel’s position.
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