Consider the following question I received from a defense attorney.

“Plaintiff timely served updated verified responses to Form Interrogatories, Set #1, #6.4, 8.4, 8.6, 16.1- 16.8 and 17.1 (RFA #5) pursuant to a Supplemental Interrogatory request.  Instead of providing the information requested in the interrogatories, Plaintiff responded to each of the interrogatories with the following response: 

Pursuant to CCP §2030.230, Plaintiff identifies the documents Bates Stamped 00001 – 00290 she produced on March 1, 2024

The email went on to ask if Plaintiff’s response was proper. The answer is no.

Reason #1:     Plaintiff failed to meet her obligations under C.C.P. §2030.220 in responding to Defendants’ Supplemental Interrogatories.  The code requires that a party must make a reasonable and good faith effort to obtain the information in responding to interrogatories C.C.P. §2030.220; 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. Kilbourne (1978) 84 CA3d 771, 779. This includes a party’s lawyer (Smith v. Superior Court (1961) 189 CA2d 6, 12); 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); and experts who have been retained by a party. Sigerseth v. Superior Court (1972) 23 CA 3d 427, 433Cal. Prac. Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (TRG 2024) ¶ 8:1051-1060. This means that an attorney can’t just attach 290 documents with no descriptions.  Sinaiko Healthcare Consulting, Inc. v. Pacific Healthcare Consultants (2007) 148 CA4th 390. The statute and the case law make it very clear that a party and the attorney must be proactive in obtaining the information to enable them to fully respond to the interrogatories.  

Reason #2:     Plaintiff’s reference to 290 documents is improper. The code does not require Defendants to cull through 290 documents and guess what Plaintiff’s responses might be. If an interrogatory requires “reference to some other document, it should be identified, and its contents summarized so that the answer by itself is fully responsive to the interrogatory.” Cal. Prac. Guide:  Civil Procedure Before Trial (TRG 2024) ¶8:1049 citing Deyo v. Kilbourne (1978) 84 CA3d 771 at 783,149.  As can be seen by the response, the documents are neither summarized nor identified to any specific interrogatory. In essence, Plaintiff’s response is similar to “see my files and records,” which has been found to not be a proper response.  See Cal. Prac. Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (TRG 2024) citing Fuss v. Sup. Ct. (1969) 273 CA2d 807, 815-817.  

Reason #3:     Plaintiff has not complied with C.C.P. §2030.230, which reads:

If the answer to an interrogatory would necessitate the preparation or the making of a compilation, abstract, audit, or summary of or from the documents of the party to whom the interrogatory is directed, and if the burden or expense of preparing or making it would be substantially the same for the party propounding the interrogatory as for the responding party, it is a sufficient answer to that interrogatory to refer to this section and to specify the writings from which the answer may be derived or ascertained. This specification shall be in sufficient detail to permit the propounding party to locate and to identify, as readily as the responding party can, the documents from which the answer may be ascertained. The responding party shall then afford to the propounding party a reasonable opportunity to examine, audit, or inspect these documents and to make copies, compilations, abstracts, or summaries of them.

Plaintiff’s response fails to show:

  • a compilation, abstract, audit or summary of its records is necessary in order to answer the interrogatory; 
  • no such compilation etc. presently exists; and 
  • the burden or expense of preparing or making it would be substantially the same for the asking party as it would for the answering party.   

See Cal. Prac. Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (TRG 2024) at ¶ 8:1066 citing C.C.P. §2030.230

Reason #4:     Plaintiff’s reliance on C.C.P. §2030.230 is not available to Plaintiff in responding to Form Interrogatories #6.4, 8.4, 8.6, 16.1- 16.8 and 17.1, as the interrogatories asking for specific information (i.e., facts, witness and identification of documents) and not a compilation.

In short and in summary, a supplemental interrogatory must be treated as any other interrogatory.  The attorney must perform a diligent search for information. If the interrogatory requires reference to a document, the document should be identified, and its contents summarized so that the answer by itself is fully responsive to the interrogatory. Only if the the documents are voluminous and it is burdensome to to make a compilation does the responding party have the option of responding pursuant to C.C.P. §2030.230.