I received a comment about one of my blogs saying:

Many young(er) attorneys abuse discovery as a matter of course – as if they have been taught how to be obstructionists at law school. I also think newer attorneys do the scorched earth route to create more billing.  One dope sent me objections that were over 100 pages.

I have written many blogs regarding how to handle discovery abuse by opposing counsel.  These include filing motions to compel further responses, filing motions for protective orders and how to recover sanctions.

However, what I have been seeing lately is that the counsel responding to the written discovery does not understand what their obligations are in responding to written discovery.  It’s as if they never read the statutes and never read any of the treatises.  Instead the responses are full of garbage objections that have no merit and the responses show a failure of a proper investigation. This isn’t just coming from young lawyers but also seasoned lawyers with 15+ years of experience.

In understanding, what a party’s obligations are you need to understand that the purpose of the 1986 Discovery Act is to exchange information between the parties so each side can evaluate their strengths and weaknesses of their case so the case can be resolved before trial.

See Weil and Brown, Cal Prac. Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (TRG 2017) §8:1 citing Greyhound Corp. v. Superior Court (1961) 56 C2d 355, 376.

The attorney for the responding party needs to be aware of the statutes in responding to interrogatories, request for admissions and Requests for production of documents each have their own set of requirements for the response.  Yet they have one thing in common:

The code requires that a party must make a reasonable and good faith effort to obtain the information. Regency Health Services, Inc. v. Superior Court (1998) 64 CA4th 1496.  “A party cannot plead ignorance to information which can be obtained from sources under his control.” Deyo v. Superior Court  (1978) 84 CA3d 771, 782. This includes

a party’s lawyer; Smith v. Sup. Ct. (1961) 189 CA 2d 6

agents or employees; Gordon v. Sup. Ct.  (1984) 161 CA 3d 151, 167-168

family members; Jones v. Superior Court  (1981) 119 CA 3d 534, 552

experts; Sigerseth v. Superior Court (1972) 23 CA 3d 427,433

See Weil and Brown, Cal Prac. Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (TRG 2017) §8:1051-1060

This means that you can’t just pawn off the responses to your client or spend an hour and dictate off the top of your head and then answer “inability to respond.”  See Sinaiko-Healthcare-Consulting-v.–Pacific-Healthcare

Requests for Production of Documents has a very specific obligation as you must make a “diligent search” and a “reasonable inquiry” which can be a very difficult standard for the responding party to meet if challenged.

There are many treatises on Discovery that explain in detail what are a party’s obligations in responding to discovery as well as what are the proper objections to written discovery.  The treatises that I use are:

  • California Civil Discovery Practice 4th Edition (CEB 2017)
  • California Civil Discovery (LexisNexis 2017)
  • Cal Prac. Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (TRG 2017)
  • Cal Prac. Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial FORMS (TRG 2017)
  • California Discovery Citations (TRG 2017)
  • Jefferson’s California Evidence Bench Book 4th Edition (CEB 2017)

I cannot stress how important it is to know your obligations in responding to written discovery as attorneys spend too much time and money arguing over inadequate responses to basic discovery.

Most cases rise and fall on whether there is documentary evidence supporting a claim or defense. Thus, the most important discovery device in a litigator’s  toolbox  is the ability to request documents pursuant to CCP 2031.210 et seq. Unfortunately, most lawyers fail to properly respond and produce documents which leads to the ever so popular Motion to Compel Further Responses and Production of Documents

Patrick Nolan’s article “How the crafty defense lawyer hides things by avoiding the details in requests for production of documents — Using the teeth of the statute to get the most out of RFPs”  gives an eye opening tutorial on how to deal with a response that is not as straightforward as it appears.  Below is his article.

Continue Reading How a Crafty Lawyer Hides Things by Avoiding the Details when Responding to Requests for Production of Documents

The title of this blog is a quote from the most basic tenant of the 2016 Discovery Act found in Code of Civil Procedure Section 2017.010 titled Matters Subject to Discovery which reads:

“Unless otherwise limited by order of the court in accordance with this title, any party may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action or to the determination of any motion made in that action, if the matter either is itself admissible in evidence or appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Discovery may relate to the claim or defense of the party seeking discovery or of any other party to the action. Discovery may be obtained of the identity and location of persons having knowledge of any discoverable matter, as well as of the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any document, electronically stored information, tangible thing, or land or other property.” [Emphasis added]

The courts and the treatises liberally construe this statute and a party’s right to obtain the identity and location of witnesses.

Continue Reading Discovery May Be Obtained of the Identity and Location of Persons Having Knowledge of Any Discoverable Matter

 

A row of six blue mailboxes on a street in Charleston, South Carolina. Focus is on the first mailbox's rusty screw head.

When I was a research attorney for Alameda County Superior Court, my judge drilled into me to always check the proof of service to make sure that it was signed and service on all parties had properly been made.  As a Discovery Referee, I still review the proof of service first and I am always amused when the proof of service is signed saying that I was already served.  Recently I was reading Aaron Morris’ article “Don’t be that Attorney—Ten Ways to Make Yourself Look Foolish”,  a humorous article that many of us lawyers always wanted to write about the outlandish positions attorneys take.  I specifically enjoyed his third pet peeve and had to pass it along.

So here it is

Continue Reading To Sign or Not to Sign Your Proof of Service

Hand of referee with red card and whistle in the soccer stadium.

Recently I saw the following document response and without even looking at the document request I knew that the response was bad and a motion to compel further responses was going to need to be filed:

Objection, as some or all of these documents are equally or more available to Plaintiffs. Without waiving, responding party states that all responsive, unprivileged, known, and reasonably available documents will be produced by Defendant, if they have not already been produced to Plaintiffs.

 

Continue Reading DISCOVERY GAMES AND MISCONCEPTIONS—What is Wrong with this Document Response?

Decorative Scales of Justice in the CourtroomIn most practices areas, facts are king. The attorney who can discover and present the best “facts” will be the most persuasive when presenting their case to the judge or jury. However, some cases can be won in the law and motion department with a Motion for Summary Judgment and/or Summary Adjudication.  In these cases, the facts are less important than the law. If your case is one that you can win as a matter of law based on inconvertible facts (or the opponents admitted facts) and you believe that a Motion for Summary Judgment or a Motion for Summary Adjudication is appropriate, you need to develop a discovery plan specifically tailored to these motions.

Continue Reading Discovery and the Motion for Summary Judgment

A close-up of a Baseball or Softball Home Plate Umpire

Recently I received an e-mail from an attorney who followed my advice regarding General Objections.  It went like this:

“I read your article ‘Why you Need to Bring a Motion to Strike General Objections,’ and filed a ‘Motion to Strike Defendants’ Preliminary Statement and Unmeritorious Objections.’  The Preliminary Statement contained many of the issues you pointed out in your article, and each of defendants’ responses to interrogatories and document requests contained the same 28 lines of objections.  The court then separated the motions to compel from the motions to strike and refused to rule on the motion to strike stating “There is no such motion.” Is the court correct?”

Continue Reading DISCOVERY GAMES AND MISCONCEPTIONS – Is the Court Correct That There is No Motion to Strike in Discovery?

legal gavel and law books, on white

 

Can a trial court order a party to disclose potentially privileged information because the party’s privilege log did not provide sufficient information for the court to evaluate whether the privilege applies?  According to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Division Three in Catalina Island Yacht Club v. The Superior Court of Orange County filed December 4, 2015 the answer is NO!

Continue Reading No Waiver of Privileges for Inadequate Privilege Log

iStock_000008477093SmallI 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.

Continue Reading Should you withdraw your motion if the other side has complied?

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Recently I was contacted to help on a party’s Motion to Compel Further Responses to Form Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, and Requests for Admissions. In viewing opposing counsel’s responses to the discovery, I gazed upon the General Response and Objections preamble in absolute astonishment.  It read as follows:

Continue Reading Why You Need to Bring a Motion to Strike General Objections