Legal News

Bill Would Limit Plaintiff Depositions to 7 Hours

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D - Burbank, introduced a bill on February 22nd to add a section to the Code of Civil Procedure that would limit a deposition of any person to one day of seven hours unless stipulated to or ordered by the court. A court would be required to allow additional time “if needed to fairly examine the deponent or if the deponent, another person, or any other circumstance impedes or delays the examination.”

Mr. Gatto was an attorney who practiced at Mayer Brown, a large defense firm, prior to his election in 2010 to the Legislature. Consumer Attorneys of California is backing the bill. The California Defense Counsel noted that in cases with many defendants you simply cannot do a deposition in seven hours and that it would further burden the courts with a lot of extra motions for additional time.

The bill was heard in committee and has been amended to allow the deposition of a person who is ill or over the age of 65 to go for no more than 7 hours over the course of 2 or more days. On May 1st, the Judiciary Committee voted 7-3 to send the bill to the Assembly Floor, where it has been read twice and was ordered on May 8th to a third reading.

Arguments in favor of the bill from various entities include 1) this brings California law in line with federal law and 2) protects the health of ill and elderly deponents who are subjected to multiple days of repetitive and pointless questioning to increase the possibility that they will either die or drop their cases. The bill is supported by various labor and consumer groups, unions, and several asbestos organizations (specifically Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization and MARF).

In opposition, the California Association of Joint Powers Authorities, California Defense Counsel, and Civil Justice Association of California note that 1) seven hours is insufficient in multi-party complex cases for lawyers to obtain the information necessary to defend their clients, 2) federal discovery rules are fundamentally different and those differences account in large part for why state depositions might take longer, 3) California has always favored liberal discovery to give greater assistance in ascertaining truth, checking and preventing perjury, detecting fraudulent and sham claims, gathering otherwise difficult to prove facts, educating parties as to the real value of their claims and defenses, expediting litigation, preventing surprise, and simplifying and narrowing issues, 4) existing law already allows any person to ask a court to limit or even deny a deposition for a number of reasons and this broad limitation appears unwarranted.

At the request of the author, the bill was moved to the inactive file on May 14th. A bill in the inactive file is generally ready for floor consideration but for some reason is dead or dormant. An author may move a bill to the inactive file and move it off at a later date. It is unclear what will happen with this bill at this point.