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Discovery in California litigation

Discovery in California litigation is the topic of this blog post.

The importance of discovery in California civil litigation cannot be emphasized enough. Utilizing discovery correctly can mean the difference between winning and losing for many cases. Yet many law firms and solo attorneys are so overworked and understaffed that they do not have the time to propound enough discovery on their cases. The result is that many cases which could have been won at trial, or a reasonable settlement reached before trial, instead are lost.

The California courts have ruled that the scope of discovery in California civil litigation is very broad. Any doubts are applied liberally in favor of discovery.

For discovery purposes, information is relevant if it might reasonably assist a party in evaluating case, preparing for trial, or facilitating settlement. Gonzalez v. Superior Court City of San Fernando (1995) 33 Cal.App.4th 1539, 1546.

Admissibility is not the test and information, unless privileged, is discoverable if it might reasonably lead to admissible evidence. Davies v. Superior Court (1984) 36 Cal.3d 291, 301.

These rules are applied liberally in favor of discovery. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co. v. Superior Court (1982) 31 Cal.3d 785, 790, and (contrary to popular belief), fishing expeditions are permissible in some cases. Greyhound Corp. v. Superior Court (1961) 56 Cal.2d 355, 385, (“although fishing may be improper or abused in some cases, that “is not of itself an indictment of the fishing expedition per se”.)

Clearly then, propounding discovery is a vital tool in (1) evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case; (2) preparing for trial, and (3) facilitating settlement.

While depositions are also a vital tool they have limitations, particularly the fact that deposition questions may not ask party deponent to state all facts, list all witnesses and identify all documents that support or pertain to particular contention in that party’s pleadings, although that information is discoverable when sought by written interrogatory. Rifkind v. Superior Court (1994) 22 Cal.App.4th 1255, 1257.

Form and special interrogatories, request for admissions, and requests for production of documents all need to be utilized so that the facts, witnesses and documents that support the opposing party’s claims or defenses can be ascertained, deposed and reviewed, and getting certain admissions or denials of issues relevant to the lawsuit on record before the trial.

Attorneys or parties in California that would like more information on a California discovery litigation document package containing over 25 sample documents can use the link shown below.

California discovery litigation document package

The author of this article, Stan Burman, is a freelance paralegal who has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995.

Subscribe to my weekly newsletter with legal tips and tricks for California. http://www.legaldocspro.net/newsletter.htm

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