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Bar Association of San Francisco Member Benefits: Publications

You Have an Obligation to Respond to Discovery in Good Faith

 

By Katherine Gallo

 

Imagine this: At the beginning of the case you serve interrogatories asking basic information about your case. Thirty-five days later you receive responses that state for every interrogatory:

“Vague, ambiguous, overbroad, burdensome, oppressive, not likely to lead to admissible evidence and the information is equally accessible to the defendant. Plaintiff further objects on the grounds of attorney
client privilege and the work
product doctrine.”

Does this sound all too familiar? The purpose of discovery is to take the “game” element out of trial preparation by enabling the parties to obtain evidence necessary to evaluate and resolve their dispute before a trial is necessary. Weil and Brown, Cal Prac. Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (TRG 2012) ¶8:1, citing Greyhound Corp. v. Superior Court (1961) 56 C2d 355, 391. Unfortunately, now it appears the call of the wild is “Let the games begin” as the dreaded discovery process unfolds.

It is time to rethink how you respond to interrogatories. The code requires that a party must make a reasonable and good faith effort to obtain the information. Regency Health Services, Inc. v. Superior Court (1998) 64 CA4th1496. “A party cannot plead ignorance to information which can be obtained from sources under his control.” Deyo v. Kilbourne (1978) 84 CA3d 771,782. This includes a party’s lawyer [Smith v. Superior Court (1961) 189 CA 2d 6], agents or employees [Gordon v. Superior Court (1984) 161 CA 3d 15,167-168], family members [Jones v. Superior Court (1981) 119 CA 3d 534, 552] and experts who have been retained by a party and designated as a trial witness [Sigerseth v. Superior Court (1972) 23 CA 3d 427,433]. See Weil and Brown at ¶ 8:1051-1060.

This means that you can’t just pawn off the responses to your client or spend an hour and dictate off the top of your head and then answer “inability to respond.” See Sinaiko Healthcare Consulting, Inc. v. Pacific Healthcare Consultants (2007) 148 CA4th 390. The statute and case law make it very clear that a party and the attorney must be proactive in obtaining the information to respond to discovery.


 

Katherine Gallo, a BASF mediation panelist since 2010, is a renowned expert in complex discovery issues. Visit her discovery blog at www.resolvingdiscoverydisputes.com. Find out more about BASF’s Mediation Services at www.sfbar.org/adr/mediation.

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