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.

Day 105 Before Trial

Last day to file MSJ/MSA

Day 70 Before Trial

Request for Disclosure of Experts to be served

Day 60 Before Trial

Last day for written discovery to be served 

Day 50 Before Trial

Expert disclosure

Day 44 Before Trial

Opposition for MSJ/MSA

Day 40 Before Trial

First day experts can be deposed
Last day to serve non-expert depositions notices

Day 34 Before Trial

Reply for MSJ/MSA

Day 30 Before Trial

Supplemental Expert Disclosure
Last day written discovery can be due
Last day non-expert witnesses can be deposed
Last day Motion for MSJ/MSA can be heard

Day 15 Before Trial

Last day experts can be deposed
Last day for all non-expert discovery motions

Day 10 Before Trial

Last day for expert discovery motions

This timeline does not work in cases involving multiple parties, numerous experts and/or complex factual or legal issues.  You also only have 30 weekdays to take expert depositions.  You are taking these crucial expert depositions without the last of the written discovery responses and non-expert witnesses’ testimony.   Throw in a few discovery motions and a motion for summary judgment and you’re swamped.   You then begin wonder when are you going to have time to digest and analyze your case; prepare your motions in limine, the jury instructions, your trial brief and your opening statement; and prep your witnesses?

Discovery deadlines are not set in stone and can be modified.  There are numerous As a discovery referee, I often modify the discovery deadlines to fit the case.  I take into consideration the complexity of the legal issues as well as the number of parties involved.  I ask whether a Motion for Summary Judgment/Adjudication is going to be filed and what discovery needs to be done before it can be filed.  I determine how many experts each party plans to disclose and what additional discovery needs to be completed for the expert to be prepared.  I also keep in mind how much time is it takes to be prepared for trial.  Taking all of the above into consideration, I have prepared a timeline for the last year before trial in a typical complex case.  You can find a Word version of the discovery order at my website, under Construction CMO #3 (Trial Deadlines).

 Day 365 Before Trial

Discovery MUST be opened 365 days before trial

Day 210 Before Trial

Expert disclosure 

Day 180 Before Trial

Supplemental expert disclosure

Day 120 Before Trial

Last day to serve written discovery
Serve supplemental interrogatory
Serve supplemental document request

Day 105 Before Trial

Last day to serve MSJ/MSA

Day 90 Before Trial

Written discovery closes
All non-expert depositions close
Expert depositions begin

Day 45 Before Trial

Last day for all non-expert discovery motions

Day 44 Before Trial

Opposition to MSJ/MSA due

Day 34 Before Trial

Reply to MSJ/MSA

Day 30 Before Trial

Last day for expert depositions
Last day for MSJ/MSA to be heard

Day 15 Before Trial

Last day for expert depositions motions to be heard

If this discovery plan or a modification of this plan works for you consider asking the parties in your case to stipulate pursuant to C.C.P §2016.030. and do it early in the case.  If you get resistance, bring a motion asking the court to establish the sequence and timing of discovery for the convenience of the parties and witnesses and in the interests of justice pursuant to C.C.P.§2019.020(b).