On October 20, 2022, the Second District Court of Appeal ruled in City of Los Angeles v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLC (2022) 84 CA5th 466 found that a party cannot just rely solely on Code of Civil Procedure §2023.010 in bringing a motion for discovery sanctions. Instead, a party must bring the motion for sanctions based on the abuse in relation to a specific discovery device and its statute for the imposition of sanctions. Those statutes for protective orders and motions to compel are  Code of Civil Procedure §2025.410, §2025.420, §2025.430 and §2025.440 for depositions, §2030.090, §2030.290 and §2030.300 for interrogatories, §2031.060, §2031.300 and §2031.310 for requests for production, §2032.030, §2032.240, §2032.250, §2032.410. §2032.420 and §2032.620 for independent medical examinations, §2033.080, §2033.270 and §2033.290 for requests for admissions and §2034.250 and §2034.300 for experts. Otherwise, the award of sanctions is improper.

The facts of the case involved defendant PricewaterhouseCoopers bringing a motion to recover attorney fees and costs for the Plaintiff City of Los Angeles’ misuse of the discovery process.  The motion was brought post-trial and only relied on C.C.P. §2023.010. The Defendant sought no other relief. The trial court awarded sanctions against the City of Los Angeles in the amount of $2,500,000 based on a history of abuse by the City and the totality of the circumstances. The City of Los Angeles appealed. The Court of Appeal reversed, stating:

“Section 2023.010 describes general categories of discovery misconduct but does not contain any language that authorizes the court to impose the conduct listed… Instead, each of the categories of misconduct listed in section 2023.010 are managed through the procedures set forth in the chapters governing the discovery methods, as well as the other provisions of the Discovery Act that regulate and sanction misconduct…Section 2023.030 describes the types of sanctions available under the Discovery Act when another provision authorizes a particular sanction. Section 2023.030 does not independently authorize the court to impose sanctions for discovery misconduct.”  [501-503] [emphasis added]

The court stated that trial courts have inherent authority to impose non-monetary sanctions that are necessary to remedy misconduct and ensure a fair trial but trial courts may award attorney fees as a sanction for misconduct only when authorized by statute or an agreement of the parties. Trial courts are prohibited “from using fee awards to punish misconduct unless the Legislature, or the parties, authorized the court to impose fees as a sanction.” [510] 

The Court of Appeal found that the record supporting the amount of attorneys’ fees awarded for the underlying discovery abuse insufficient and constituted an abuse of discretion. This is because the motion was based on C.C.P. §2023.010 – not one of the six discovery devices sanction statutes – and it included expenses that appeared unrelated to a specific discovery abuse.  

The matter was remanded for the trial court to enter a new and different order on the issue of monetary sanctions based on discovery provisions authorizing the imposition of sanctions. 

The California Supreme Court granted the petition for review on January 25, 2023. The case can be cited, as the Supreme Court denied the request for depubliction.