There are very few discovery cases that come out each year. Usually they are are significant and involve privileges such as Coito v. Superior Court and Catalina Island Yacht Club v. Superior Court. The newly reported case Mitchell v. Superior Court (2015) 243 CA4th 269 is not one of those cases. However, it does demonstrate a trial court’s error in excluding witnesses at trial, because it did not understand the definition of “INCIDENT” in the Judicial Council Form Interrogatories and what the standard is in issuing evidence sanctions regarding discovery abuse .
For years I have been blogging about bad discovery habits from Garbage Objections to unauthorized General Objections, and preached that attorneys must play by the rules. As you know if you have read my blogs, I am quite the supporter of the 1986 Discovery Act, and often express my opinions on a party’s responsibility during the discovery process. More importantly, I attempt to educate lawyers about the Discovery Act so they can be well prepared with their arguments when the court makes a wrong turn (yes, it does happen).
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?”
I am happy to report that there were no substantive changes to the Discovery Act. The only change to any of the discovery codes is C.C.P. Section 2025.510 which involves deposition transcripts. As you can see by the 2014 Amendment those changes were more edits than changes:
I 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.
W. George Wailes, a Business Trial Attorney and Director at Carr McClellan, in Burlingame, CA brings us this warning from the California Court of Appeal about what could happen to a third party that refuses to comply with a subpoena for electronically stored information.
The California Court of Appeal recently provided rare guidance regarding a third party’s obligations to produce electronically stored information (ESI) in response to a subpoena. In Vasquez v. California School of Culinary Arts, Inc. (Sallie Mae) (2014) 230 CA4th 35, the court defined subpoenaed parties’ obligations to extract existing data from computer systems and upheld an award of attorneys’ fees against the recalcitrant third party. The court concluded that it is unreasonable for a third party to withhold ESI that exists in its computer systems on the basis that outputting the ESI entails creating a “new” spreadsheet.
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:
Have you ever had a judge give you a ruling in discovery that was so absolutely wrong that you knew you had to fight it? Yet, everyone you talk to tells you that it is almost impossible to get a writ in discovery so you just live with the ruling. Appellate Lawyer Jerry Clausen from San Francisco wrote a great article in Plaintiff Magazine titled “Obtaining Review of Discovery Rulings.” Here it is for your enjoyment.
During my seminar on “Sanctions Denied,” I was asked how do you handle discovery abuse when it is part of a deep pocket defendant’s litigation strategy. His story went like this:
Plaintiff’s counsel had been to court several times on motions to compel documents and motions to compel further documents from an international Corporation. The court’s most recent order was that the documents were to be served two weeks before the corporation’s person most knowledgeable depositions were to take place in London. Instead defendant produced 30,000 documents on a CD less than 24 hours before the London depositions were to begin. Plaintiff counsel went forward with the depositions as trial was in a month and his client could not afford for the lawyer to go to London another time. Plaintiff counsel expressed his frustrations that even though the court gave him $6000 in sanctions he was severely handicapped in his preparation for the depositions and it impacted on what evidence he could obtain before trial.
Even though this is an extreme example, it is not unusual. The real question is what could he have done and what should you do if you find yourself in this situation.
As a new year of litigation begins, here are a few significant changes to the discovery statutes that you should be aware of: Continue Reading NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS–Statutory Changes to the Discovery Act