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How Informal Discovery Conferences May Reduce Costs

William B. Hanley Jan. 7, 2022

The discovery phase of a lawsuit can account for one-half or more of the total costs of litigation, especially if the counsel for one party is dissatisfied with the answers to the interrogatories submitted to the other party.

Interrogatories are questions on the issue during the process of litigation. An example would be between Party A and Party B. If Party A is suing Party B for breach of contract, Party A will submit a list of questions, or interrogatories, to Party B regarding the actions or inactions that they claim amounted to a breach of contract. Party B has 30 days to respond.

If the attorney for Party A finds the answers evasive or insufficient, they can file a motion in court for a further response. Successive motions can be filed for each interrogatory or requested for documentation that is deemed insufficiently responded to.

Therefore, all of these motions can take up additional time in court and time spent by legal counsel responding. In other words, costs can quickly skyrocket on both sides.

Fortunately, California offers an alternative to endless motions, which is called the Informal Discovery Conference (IDC). IDCs can save both time and money and speed the court process along.

If you’re contemplating civil litigation or you’ve been sued by another, in Irvine, California, or anywhere in the counties of Orange, Los Angeles, or San Diego, contact William B. Hanley, Attorney at Law. With 40 years of experience, he is one of California’s top civil trial attorneys. Trust him to fight aggressively to help you on any business litigation issue.

What Is an Informal Discovery Conference?

The California Code of Civil Procedures (CCP) Section 2016.40 requires that any attorney seeking to file a Motion to Compel Further Response to Discovery must make “reasonable and good faith attempts” to engage in what is called “meet and confer” sessions with the other attorney. There is a time limit of 45 days for filing such a motion, and each response in question requires a separate motion, along with a separate filing fee.

The alternative to these endless motions is the Informal Discovery Conference, as described by the CCP: “If an informal resolution is not reached by the parties, as described in Section 2016.040, the court may conduct an informal discovery conference upon request by a party or on the court’s own motion for the purpose of discussing discovery matters in dispute between the parties.”

Note that the court can order the IDC itself, or one of the attorneys can request it.

History of the Informal Discovery Conference

Courts for years recognized Informal Discovery Conferences, but there was no established procedure or wording in the CCP to formalize the use. This changed when then-Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 383, which added Section 2016.080 (quoted above) to the CCP.

The section became effective on January 1, 2019. Somewhat curiously, however, the section also contains an automatic repeal provision. Section 2016.080 will be repealed on January 1, 2023, “unless a later enacted statute that is enacted before January 1, 2023, deletes or extends that date.”

Once the court orders or approves an IDC, the time limit for filing a motion for response is extended until the conference has concluded. In addition, the CCP now permits the court to “toll the deadline for filing a discovery motion or make any other appropriate discovery order.”

Courts are allowed but not mandated to use IDCs. Some courts may choose to allow them while others may not.

Benefits of the IDC

In the best of circumstances, the Informal Discovery Conference may lead to a settlement, avoiding further courtroom action; however, it can stave off the endless filing of costly and time-consuming motions for further response.

Each motion not only requires a filing fee, but it compels the other side to prepare further responses. The time to do that can add thousands to the cost of continuing the litigation.

AMFS, American Medical Forensic Specialists, a group that provides expert witnesses, found that a personal injury trial in California can take up to three years if continuous motions are presented.

Informal Discovery Conferences can avoid all that and speed the trial along, saving both sides time and money.

How William B. Hanley, Attorney at Law Can Help

If you’re involved in a lawsuit, motions for further response are necessary if the other side is being evasive or uncooperative; however, an alternative does exist in the Information Discovery Conference.

Whichever side of a lawsuit you’re on, William B. Hanley, Attorney at Law has years of courtroom knowledge to help with your best interests and strive for the best possible outcome. Contact him immediately if you’re facing a lawsuit or are thinking of initiating one. William B. Hanley, Attorney at Law, proudly serves clients in Irvine, Orange County, San Diego County, and Los Angeles County, California.