Understanding Discovery in CA Civil Litigation
Civil litigation in CA allows parties to fight for or against allegations of wrongdoing and to seek or deny remedies for that wrongdoing before a jury and/or judge. Discovery is an important part of the civil litigation process. It's how the parties determine what facts, evidence, and other information are available so that they can develop their respective arguments. Discovery can help the parties negotiate a fair settlement or pursue another favorable outcome, but you have to know how to use discovery effectively to get the desired results.
At Gelb Law, our civil litigation attorney in Los Angeles knows that discovery is not simply about gathering evidence but also about shaping our clients' cases to their advantage. To learn more about the discovery process and its strategic use, read on. To schedule a free consultation with our civil litigator, call us at 833-543-5252, and rest assured that we are committed to the discovery process to prepare solid arguments that support and prove your claim.
The Role of Discovery in CA Civil Litigation
Discovery is a very important part of the civil litigation pre-trial phase where parties involved in a lawsuit exchange information and evidence.
Through discovery, parties can develop their respective case and avoid surprises at trial. As such, each party can enter into negotiations or prepare for trial with a comprehensive understanding of what the other side has to support their claims or defenses.
Discovery is governed by a set of rules that both parties must follow. In some cases, the court can also limit the scope of discovery. The primary methods of discovery are:
- Interrogatories, which involve written questions that the opposing party must answer under oath
- Requests for production, which involve demands for the production of documents, records, or physical evidence
- Depositions, which involve sworn testimony taken in person, typically in front of a court reporter, allowing attorneys to question witnesses or parties involved in the case
- Requests for admissions, which involve a set of statements that the opposing party must admit or deny
While the discovery process serves to share information between parties, it can be a lengthy process when the case is complicated and the stakes are high.
Interrogatories in CA Civil Matters
An interrogatory is a written question that one party serves on the other party for a written response. According to the jurisdiction and type of court, the number of questions that can be asked may be limited. There is also an established time frame during which the questions must be answered. Interrogatories are limited to the plaintiff and defendant and do not apply to other parties, like witnesses.
Some common characteristics of interrogatories include:
- Questions can be either specific or general.
- Questions must be answered under oath.
- Questions are numbered and written in an organized manner.
- Answers must respond to the question in full
- Parties are not required to elaborate beyond what is asked.
- If for whatever reason the responding party objects to a specific interrogatory, they can state their objection but must explain the reason.
Failure to respond to interrogatories has consequences. The party requesting the information can file a motion to compel the other party to answer appropriately and timely.
Request for Production of Documents in CA
While the ability to ask and have questions answered via the use of interrogatories is beneficial, when one party needs a copy of a document, the correct legal vehicle is a request for the production of documents. Requests for the production of documents are not limited to the plaintiff and defendant but can be served on non-parties when the requesting party needs specific information necessary to prove or defend a case.
The responding party must comply with the request for production. If they cannot for some reason –– for example, the requested document is privileged –– they must explain the reason in a written response.
Sometimes, a limit is placed on the number of requests to produce. Also, the timeframe to request and respond may be limited. Like all other discovery methods, limits and time frames are decided by the jurisdiction, the court, and the type of case.
Depositions taken for Legal Disputes in CA
During the discovery process, each party has the opportunity to depose witnesses to discover facts and evidence and to better define the scope of the proceedings. Known as depositions, this part of the discovery process is a formal taking of the oral statement of a witness under oath. It is recorded by a court reporter and, in many cases, is also videotaped.
Depositions usually occur at one of the attorneys' law offices, but all parties can attend. Those present typically include the witness(es) and their attorney(s), the plaintiff(s) and their attorney(s), and the defendant(s) and their attorney(s). Sometimes paralegals, investigators, or expert witnesses might also be present. The judge presiding over the case, however, is neither involved in nor present for depositions.
During the deposition, though an attorney may object to a question, the witness will likely have to answer. Admissibility is often addressed by the judge at another time.
Request for Admissions in CA Civil Cases
Requests for admissions are written requests from one party to the other party, asking them to either admit or deny certain facts or statements. The party served with the requests will have a certain amount of time to respond. The amount of time is determined by the jurisdiction and the court.
Failure to respond to the requests for admissions has consequences. The party failing to respond appropriately and timely may not be able to contest the fact or statement later in the civil litigation process.
Strategic Use of Discovery in Civil Litigation
Discovery is as much a process as it is a strategy. If used right, significant insight can be obtained alongside important evidence. Some strategic uses are obvious while others are less so but possibly more impactful.
- Gathering Information. The primary purpose of discovery is to obtain information and evidence relevant to the case. We use this phase to gather facts, documents, and testimonies that support our client's claims or defenses.
- Uncovering Weaknesses. While building our case, we pay attention to the opposing party's responses and evidence. Any inconsistencies or weaknesses in the opposing party's position are strategically exploited during trial.
- Deposing Witnesses. Depositions are a critical part of discovery. Our civil litigation attorney uses this opportunity to assess the credibility of witnesses and gain insights into their testimony. We can also lock in witness statements, making it harder for them to change their story later.
- Identifying Expert Witnesses. Discovery can reveal potential expert witnesses who can provide authoritative opinions on complex issues. These experts can bolster our client's position and lend credibility to our case.
- Managing Documents. Organizing and managing the vast amount of documents involved in a civil case is crucial. When appropriate, we use document review software to efficiently analyze and tag relevant evidence.
- Negotiating Settlements. Discovery can be a powerful driver of settlement negotiations. When we have a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing party's case, we can use that to incentivize them to reach a settlement with us rather than proceed to trial.
- Filing Motions. We can use the information obtained during discovery to support or oppose various pre-trial motions, such as motions for summary judgment or motions to compel.
- Preparing for Trial. Discovery materials play a central role in trial preparation. We use them to craft compelling opening and closing arguments, as well as to impeach witnesses during cross-examination.
Part of this strategy, too, is maintaining civility. We always aim to maintain civility and professionalism, but when the opposing side uses abusive or overly aggressive tactics, it can backfire and harm their credibility.
Contact a Civil Litigation Lawyer in Los Angeles Today
The discovery process in civil litigation is not just about collecting information; it's about strategically shaping the narrative of your case. At Gelb Law, our civil litigation attorney in CA employs discovery in a manner in which we can gain a competitive advantage by uncovering weaknesses in the opposing party's position, building a strong case, and negotiating from a position of strength.
Contact us by filling out the online form or calling us at 833-543-5252 to schedule a free consultation. We will discuss your case and overall concerns and outline your best legal options.