In Litigation, What Is Discovery?

by | Sep 5, 2023 | Pre-Trial Procedure |

In California State court, the discovery process plays a crucial role in litigation, serving the purpose of ensuring fairness, facilitating the exchange of information, and promoting efficient case resolution. The methods of discovery and the timing associated with them are governed by California’s Code of Civil Procedure.

Purpose of Discovery:

Information Gathering: One of the primary purposes of discovery is to allow parties to gather information and evidence relevant to their case. This includes facts, documents, and the identities of potential witnesses. By doing so, each side can better understand the strengths and weaknesses of their claims or defenses.

Preventing Surprises: Discovery aims to prevent surprises at trial. Parties are entitled to know what evidence the other side plans to present, ensuring a fair and orderly trial process.

Promoting Settlement: The exchange of information during discovery can lead to early settlements. When parties understand the strength of their opponent’s case or the weaknesses in their own, they may be more inclined to negotiate a resolution rather than going to trial.

Methods of Discovery in Employment Cases:

Interrogatories: Parties can serve written interrogatories on each other, consisting of questions that must be answered under oath. These can seek information about facts, witnesses, or other relevant details.

Depositions: Depositions involve oral questioning of witnesses, parties, or experts under oath. A court reporter creates a transcript. Depositions allow for in-depth questioning and assessing the credibility of potential trial witnesses.

Requests for Production of Documents: Parties can request the production of documents, electronically stored information (ESI), or other tangible items. This includes contracts, emails, medical records, and more. The requesting party can inspect and copy these materials.

Requests for Admission: Parties can request the other side to admit or deny specific facts or issues. Admitted facts are considered established for the case, streamlining the trial.

Physical or Mental Examinations: In cases involving a person’s physical or mental condition, the court may order examinations by qualified medical experts.

Subpoenas: Parties can issue subpoenas to non-parties, compelling them to produce documents, appear for depositions, or testify as witnesses at trial.

Electronic Discovery (eDiscovery): Given the prevalence of electronic information, eDiscovery has become vital. Parties request electronic documents and information, following specific rules for preservation and production.

Motions to Compel or Protective Orders:

If a party refuses to comply with discovery requests, the opposing party can file a motion to compel, asking the court to force compliance. Conversely, a party can file a motion for a protective order if they believe the requests are unreasonable.

Compliance with discovery rules is crucial, and parties must engage in good faith efforts to exchange information and evidence. Failure to comply can result in court-ordered sanctions, including evidence exclusion or penalties.

In summary, California State court discovery is a systematic process designed to ensure a fair and informed legal proceeding. Parties use various methods to gather information and evidence, ultimately aiming to resolve disputes efficiently, whether through settlement or trial. Understanding the timing and purpose of discovery is essential for any party involved in civil litigation in California.  Our knowledgeable and compassionate lawyers at Jay S. Rothman and Associates

will explain the discovery process to you and guide you along the way as we work to resolve your case.