SB 235 Changes California Discovery Process

On September 30, 2023, Governor Newsom signed SB 235, which will change the California Civil Discovery Act, specifically California Civil Code Section 2016.010, beginning January 1, 2024—with a sunset date of January 1, 2027. SB 235’s intent is to reduce undue delays in the discovery process in an effort to streamline litigation and resolve disputes in a more timely manner.

This bill authorizes parties to demand certain initial disclosures to automatically be made in civil actions and raises the sanction that courts must impose when it makes certain findings in relation to civil discovery abuses, as specified, to $1,000.

Existing law provides for various methods of discovery to obtain evidence in connection with civil litigation, including requests for production of documents. If the party propounding such discovery requests believes that responses are inadequate or objections are without merit or are too general, it may file a motion to compel further responses and involve the court in facilitating the exchange of discovery.

Beginning January 1, 2024, the new code will change the early discovery procedures and switch to mirroring the Federal Rule 26(f) Initial Disclosure requirement. The bill moves closer to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure by requiring certain disclosures of information related to discoverable information to be made by parties in many civil cases upon demand by a party, absent stipulation by the parties. Currently, such disclosures are only required when stipulated by the parties and ordered by the Court. The code will require each party that has appeared in a civil action to provide initial disclosures, as specified, to the other parties within 60 days of a demand by any party to the action unless modified by the parties' stipulation. The bill would require a party making initial disclosures of persons or records to additionally disclose persons or records that are relevant to the subject matter of the action and to disclose information and records regarding insurance policies or contracts that would make a person or insurance company liable to satisfy a judgment. It also allows a party who has made or responded to a demand for initial disclosures to propound supplemental demands. The initial disclosures must also be verified via the written declaration of the party or the party’s authorized representative or counsel. Lastly, the bill raises the discovery abuse sanction from $250 to $1,000 at the Court’s discretion.



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