What discovery methods do you consider when you are strategizing about the most effective method to obtain the information you need and pin down your opponent? If you have a contract case, think about serving a Demand for Bill of Particulars. A Demand for Bill of Particulars is NOT a discovery device, but an extension of the pleading. It is an old fashioned pleading vehicle but still an effective way to force your opponent to document the evidence of their contract or quasi contract claims, or have a court strike the claims, without the necessity of multiple motions to compel, before obtaining evidence or terminating sanctions.
Recently I received a telephone call from an attorney wanting to discuss whether opposing party’s objections to her special interrogatories had any merit. Listening to the list of objections, it was clear that the opposing party had failed to assert the objections in good faith as the objections included a General Objection preamble and every response included the same boilerplate garbage objections. However, one of the objections I hadn’t seen before: “No preface or instruction shall be included with a set of interrogatories. C.C.P. §2030.060(d).” The propounding party had placed the definitions of specific terms in a preamble. Did I think this was ok or not?
In 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.
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?”
There was only one change to the Discovery Codes but it was significant. The legislature added language to Code of Civil Procedure Section 2025.220 with added requirements when you serve a deposition notice. The deposition Notice must now contain:
(8)(A) A statement disclosing the existence of a contract, if any is known to the noticing party, between the noticing party or a third party who is financing all or part of the action and either of the following for any service beyond the noticed deposition:
(i) The deposition officer.
(ii) The entity providing the services of the deposition officer.
(B) A statement disclosing that the party noticing the deposition, or a third party financing all or part of the action, directed his or her attorney to use a particular officer or entity to provide services for the deposition, if applicable.
Unlike Federal Rule Civil Procedure 26(e)(1) – (2), California law does not impose a continuing duty on a party to supplement their interrogatory or document responses. Biles v. Exxon Mobil Corp. (2004) 124 CA 4th 1315. Instead, the California Discovery Act has two statutes, C.C.P. §2030.070 and C.C.P. § 2031.050, that allow the propounding party to ask for updated information “bearing on answers already made” and “later acquired or discovered documents, tangible things, land or other property.”
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!
Several times per month I receive questions from attorneys regarding a discovery dilemma. Mostly the questions offer a novel twist on basic discovery. However, this latest query was quirkier than most and raised some interesting issues and misconceptions, so I thought I would share it with you. It went like this:
I served written discovery on a cross-defendant in a case, we are one of the defendants. Cross-defendant (represented by, the plaintiff’s counsel) has appeared in this case by way of demurrer. Cross-Defendant has refused to answer for the following reasons, (1) my clients are not parties to the cross-complaint so therefore we cannot propound discovery; (2) the court sustained the demurrer with leave to amend and the amended cross-complaint will be filed shortly by the cross-complainant; and (3) the cross-defendant lives in Europe and I need to go through the Hague Convention. I don’t think any of these are legitimate reasons for not responding to discovery.