Second District, Division 3 Finds No Prior Predicate Discovery Order to Underpin Large Sanctions Award.
This one is a whopper of a reversal . . . demonstrating that appellate courts will insist that large sanctions awards for discovery abuses be based strictly on predicate rulings required under the Discovery Act.
Callan v. CRC Ins. Services, Inc., Case Nos. B206505 et al. (2d Dist., Div. 3 Nov. 2, 2010) (unpublished) involved a situation where a plaintiff was hit with hard sanctions for alleged misuse of the discovery process: defendant was awarded over $2.3 million in damages under a cross-complaint and plaintiff was hit with over $1.9 million in attorney’s fees as a result of the terminating sanctions ruling. Although a convoluted procedural and discovery history was involved, the nub of the lower court’s ruling was its perception that plaintiff failed to appear for depositions under certain stipulated discovery schedules filed with the court. However, no formal order was ever entered compelling plaintiff’s deposition attendance and testimony. Plaintiff appealed the substantial sanctions assessed against her.
Plaintiff obtained a reversal.
The reason was quite simple: plaintiff was never ordered to attend or provide testimony at a deposition under Code of Civil Procedure section 2025.450, because no order on a motion to compel such results was obtained under section 2025.450(d). The orders or stipulations entered at the behest of the parties did not qualify as the type of 2025.450(d) order justifying terminating sanctions.
However, the appellate court did do something we have never seen before in any published or unpublished decision. The appellate court determined that the trial court’s efforts to encourage compliance with discovery obligations had been ineffective such that “this case requires more rigorous case management.” It went on to direct that a comprehensive discovery schedule agreed upon by the parties would become a court order, and that the schedule would be deemed a section 2025.450(d) order for purposes of assessing future sanctions--allowing the lower court discretion to impose either monetary or nonmonetary sanctions in its discretion for noncompliance. So, in the end, the parties achieved an appellate case management protocol on discovery, although plaintiff dodged big sanctions from perceived prior transgressions.