Nearly every case in which the amount in controversy is less than $25,000 is a limited civil case. If you find yourself representing a party in a limited civil action, you need to know about the special discovery limitations in those cases and plan accordingly.
Here are four things to know about the discovery limitations and how to work with them:
- Permitted discovery is very limited, so be judicious. In a limited civil case, a party may take only one deposition as to each adverse party, so choose that deponent carefully. CCP §94. Similarly, CCP §94(a) caps the total number of discovery requests (including interrogatories (with no subparts), demands to produce documents or things, and requests for admission (with no subparts), at 35 requests per adverse party. You’ll reach the limit quickly unless you adopt a conservative plan. It’s best to ask for only the most useful information that would be difficult to obtain informally. Also, consider that further discovery may be necessary later, so you may not want to use up all 35 requests too early.
- Additional discovery may be available by motion or stipulation. The parties can agree to permit discovery beyond the limits, so consider asking for an exception to the rule. Although rare, a motion may be made for additional discovery. To be successful, the moving party must show that he or she can’t prosecute or defend the action effectively without the additional discovery requested. The court must then consider whether the moving party used all applicable discovery in good faith and whether the party attempted to secure the additional discovery by stipulation or by means other than formal discovery. CCP §95.
- The same privileges apply. Something that doesn’t change in a limited civil case are privileges. All of the privileges and protections (such as the attorney work product doctrine) that are applicable to unlimited civil matters are equally applicable to limited civil matters. CCP §90.
- Broad electronic discovery requests may backfire. Although there are no special rules on discovery of electronic evidence in limited civil cases, there may be special cost considerations in these matters. The costs associated with responding to demands for electronic evidence can easily become far greater than the maximum value of the case. Judges know this, and may order the requesting party to assume all or part of the costs of translating electronic data into usable form. It’s best to craft clear, specific, and narrow demands for electronic evidence to avoid the opposing party seeking a limit to the demand.
For guidance on handling all aspects of discovery in a limited civil case, turn to CEB’s California Civil Discovery Practice, chap 14. And don’t miss your opportunity to get a FREE guide from CEB on How to Conduct Discovery in a Limited Civil Case.
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