Here are the Answers to Your Basic Limited Civil Case Discovery
1. What kind of discovery methods can you use in a limited civil case in California?
Discovery, also known as the evidence gathering phase of a lawsuit, is governed by special rules in limited civil cases. They are called the “economic litigation rules.” They can be found in the California Code of Civil Procedure Sections 90 to 98. Unlawful detainer cases are governed by a different set of discovery rules.
2. Why do we have “Economic Litigation Rules” in limited civil cases?
It used to be that each county had both municipal and superior courts. Discovery for cases heard in the municipal courts were governed by the economic litigation rules. Now, the cases that used to be in the municipal courts are called limited civil cases. Those cases, limited civil cases, are still governed by the economic litigation rules. (See the commentary to Code of Civil Procedure Section 91 for more information.)
3. What are the “Economic Litigation Rules?”
The rules are found at California Code of Civil Procedure Section 94.
- One Deposition: Each party, Plaintiff and Defendant, are allowed to take one deposition of each other.
- The “Grabbag Rule of 35”:
- You can use no more than 35 of any combination of interrogatories, requests for admissions, or demands for inspection/production.
- You cannot use the Judicial Council General Form Interrogatories
- You may use the Judicial Council Form Interrogatories if your case is an unlawful detainer, personal injury, and contract action. But beware use of these form interrogatories counts against your 35!
- You can use subpoenas deuces tecum.
- You can conduct physical, mental, and blood examinations without limitation.
- You can discover the other sides’ expert witness.
4. How does the Grabbag Rule work?
You can use a combination of requests for admissions, notice to produce, and interrogatories. For example, you could send out 10 requests for production of documents, 15 interrogatories, and 10 requests for admissions. (10 + 15 +10 = 35!)
Use them wisely! Write out a discovery plan before you use up your precious 35!
5. Are there discovery methods unique to limited civil cases?
Unlike civil unlimited cases, you can send a case questionnaire with your complaint. (CCP Section 93.) You can also request a statement of witnesses and evidence a party intends to offer at trial. (CCP Section 96.) Study these responses very carefully. They will guide your use of the limited 35 requests.
6. What if I want to do more Discovery than is allowed by the Economic Litigation Rules?
You can file a motion to request additional discovery, but you must make a “good cause” showing. Meaning, you need to show the court you used all available discovery methods in good faith and that you will not be able to defend or prosecute your case without additional discovery. (CCP Section 95.)
Caution—before you file a motion requesting additional discovery, think about whether you really need additional discovery or are you just trying to harass the other side? If you are trying to harass, annoy, or delay the other side, consider that you can get sanctioned for that kind of conduct.
Before you send out discovery, use the case questionnaire when you send out your complaint, review it carefully, and then come up with a discovery plan to determine what you’re absolutely going to need at trial. If you need additional discovery, try talking to the other side and asking them to agree to additional discovery or a document sharing arrangement. It can cut costs and maybe lead to an eventual settlement of all issues!
Resources: Cal. Civ. Ctrm. Hbook. & Desktop Ref. § 21:33 (2013 ed.); Cal. Prac. Guide Civ. Pro. Before Trial Ch. 3-A; Cal. Code of Civ. Procedure Sections 90, et seq.
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