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Effective use of objections in responding to Auto Accidents

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					            Effective Use Of Objections In Responding To Interrogatories
                            Todd Bloomfield, Lourdes DeArmas, and Bill Karns

   Author’s Note: This article contains suggested objections which can be adopted in responding to discovery.
CAALA Members may cut-and-paste the objections listed in this article into their discovery responses by
downloading the article from the CAALA website at The article may be found in the
Advocate Magazine section under Advocate Article Archive Library.

     While every case is different      and unethical. It can also result in    postpone objections in other areas,
and civil litigation styles vary        a bar to presenting that evidence at    it is good practice in written
widely from lawyer to lawyer, the       trial. Just as important, significant   discovery to state all applicable
one constant in all litigation is       information about your case must        objections in your initial written
basic preliminary written               be provided if you expect the           response.
discovery. The goal of written          defense to engage in meaningful               There are exceptions to
discovery is to permit all parties to   mediation.                              waiver. For example, a delayed
identify essential issues necessary           Given that backdrop, as to        objection on the grounds of
to evaluate the case and prepare        each interrogatory propounded, the      privacy. (Heda v. Superior Court
for depositions and trial. Written      first question you must ask             (1990) 225 Cal.App.3d 525, 530
discovery usually starts with form      yourself is “must I object?” The        [275 Cal.Rptr. 136, 139].)
interrogatories and special             next thought you should have is         However, rather than risk a court
interrogatories.                        “should I object,” followed by          ruling regarding a waiver by
     Unfortunately, all too often,      what “objections are available?”        failing to object, applicable
the defense interrogatories are         Once you have completed that            privacy and privilege objections
prepared by an inexperienced            analysis and asserted proper            should always be stated. Should
attorney, generating extra billing      objections, the final question you      the written discovery process land
hours by propounding useless            must decide is whether to answer        you in law and motion, a
repetitive questions which are          the question once the objection is      practitioner who errors on the side
often sent without regard to your       stated.                                 of over-objecting will fair better
client’s privacy rights or the                While this article will focus     than the attorney who missed a
relevant issues in the case. The        on specific objections, the             significant objection.
discovery propounded by defense         procedure in responding to                    Your job is not only to
firms are too often boilerplate         discovery is important. Code of         prosecute your client’s case, but
forms which have not been               Civil Procedure section 2030.290        also to protect your client’s
tailored to the specific case and       provides that if responses to           privacy. When the defense starts
may not even have been reviewed         interrogatories are not timely, all     seeking your client’s social
by the propounding attorney.            objections are waived, including        security number, and medical
     Responding to this discovery       the work product protection.            information not related to the
can be an arduous and unpleasant                                                injury at bar, or other personal
task. Huge amounts of time can          When must/should an objection           information, it is your job to
be consumed in preparing                be stated                               defend your client’s privacy, even
responses to some of the nonsense                                               if it might be easier to simply give
propounded.                                 If an objection is not stated in    the defense what they are asking
     What makes the problem even        response to written discovery, that     for.
more challenging is that you must       objection is waived. (Code of Civ.
ensure that you accurately and          Proc. section 2030.290; and             Should information be provided
completely respond to valid             Scottsdale Ins. Superior Court          even if an objection is stated
interrogatories. Failure to provide     (1997) 59 Cal.App.4th 263, 273
responsive information to proper        [69 Cal.Rptr.2d 112, 118].)
interrogatories is both improper        Although there may be reasons to                       Continued next page
                            Effective Use Of Objections In Responding To Interrogatories

     For a plaintiff’s attorney, a      An objection should be stated just       Cal.App.3d 490, 493-494 [255
discovery battle is an undue            as it would in a response to a meet      Cal.Rptr. 5, 7-8].)”
consumption of time, for a defense      and confer letter, and then into an           Although not a forceful
attorney, it is a billing bonanza. If   opposition to a motion to compel.        objection, if the defendant
you win you lose and if you lose        A judge will notice and appreciate       continuously seeks the same
you lose. The best outcome for a        this kind of consistency.                information, irrespective of the
plaintiff’s attorney is to avoid the          Responding to interrogatories      phrasing of the request, it may be
fight. Pick your battles wisely.        is enough work on its own without        grounds for a protective order
     There is almost no risk in         having to reinvent the wheel and         based upon oppression.
stating an objection if the request     spend countless hours researching
is answered anyway. Most                cases to support your position that           Attorney client privilege:
requests should be answered, even       defendant’s interrogatory is vague,      “Objection. The request seeks
if an objection is stated. However,     ambiguous, overbroad,                    information subject to the
objecting to every request without      burdensome, oppressive, and not          attorney-client privilege. The
providing any answers is sure to        likely to lead to admissible             attorney-client privilege is broadly
end in a motion by the defense. If      evidence. Therefore, set forth           construed, and extends to “factual
an improper question seeks              below are suggested objections to        information” and “legal advice.”
information that will not hurt your     the most common discovery                (Mitchell v. Superior Court (1984)
case and does not invade your           issues.                                  37 Cal.3d 591, 601 [208 Cal.Rptr.
client’s privacy, answer the                                                     886, 891].)”
question. Nothing will generate         Objections to interrogatories                 Communications between
more interest from the defense                                                   client and counsel are privileged.
than a response which makes                  Argumentative: “Objection.          They are presumed to be made in
opposing counsel think you are          This discovery request as phrased        confidence, and broadly privileged
hiding something important.             is argumentative. It requires the        against from discovery. This is an
     There may be discovery             adoption of an assumption, which         very broad privilege which
requests that seek information          is improper.”                            extends to “factual information”
defendant’s are entitled to, but the         Any discovery request that          and “legal advice.”
request is improper in its form.        requires the adoption of an
There may be discovery requests         assumption is argumentative. This             Attorney work-product
that seek information that will not     is objectionable as to form. The         protection: “This discovery
damage your case. There may be          classic example is “When did you         request seeks attorney work
discovery requests that require a       stop beating your wife.” This            product in violation of Code of
showing of relevance that your          question assumes facts that may          Civil Procedure sections 2018.020
judge will eventually grant. In         not be true, but requires the answer     and 2018.030. (Cite appropriate
those situations, state the             adopt the assumption.                    case law and/or analysis of how
objection, but comply with the                                                   the information sought is
request. Specify that compliance             Already asked, repetitive           derivative in nature.)”
does not waive the objection:           discovery: “Objection. This                   Code of Civil Procedure
“Subject to and without waiving         discovery request has, in                section 2018.030 subdivision (a)
said objections plaintiff responds      substance, been previously               states, “[a] writing that reflects an
as follows...”                          propounded. (See                         attorney’s impressions,
                                        Interrogatory/Request No. ___.)          conclusions, opinion, or legal
Objecting to interrogatories            Continuous discovery into the            research or theories is not
                                        same matter constitutes                  discoverable under any
    A Pulitzer has never been           oppression, and Plaintiff further        circumstances.” Subdivision (b)
awarded for objections to written       objects on that ground.                  expands the protection to include
discovery. State objections simply      (Professional Career Colleges v.         any other attorney work-product,
and clearly. Support your               Superior Court (1989) 207
objections with legal authority.                                                                Continued next page

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                           Effective Use Of Objections In Responding To Interrogatories

“unless the court determines that      Cal.App.2d 430 [32 Cal.Rptr.              product protection includes the
denial of discovery will unfairly      527]; and Nacht & Lewis                   work-product of an attorney’s
prejudice the party seeking            Architects v. Superior Court              employees and agents, it includes
discovery in preparing that party’s    (1996) 47 Cal.App.4th 214 [54             the opinions of employees and
claim or defense or will result in     Cal.Rptr.2d 575].                         agents. (Rodriguez v. McDonnell
injustice.”                                                                      Douglas Corp. (1978) 87
     The purpose of this protection          Premature disclosure of             Cal.App.3d 626, 647-648. [151
is to “[p]reserve the rights of        experts: “Objection. The                  Cal.Rptr. 399, 410-411].)
attorneys to prepare cases for trial   interrogatory seeks premature
with that degree of privacy            disclosure of expert opinion in                Burdensome, oppressive,
necessary to encourage them to         violation of Code of Civil                overbroad: “Objection. This
prepare their cases thoroughly and     Procedure sections 2034.210,              discovery request is so broad and
to investigate not only the            2034.220, and 2034.270. The               unlimited as to time and scope as
favorable the unfavorable aspects      interrogatory also seeks attorney         to be an unwarranted annoyance,
of those cases,” and to “[p]revent     work-product in violation of Code         embarrassment, and is oppressive.
attorneys from taking undue            of Civil Procedure sections               To comply with the request would
advantage of their adversary’s         2018.020 and 2018.030. Plaintiff          be an undue burden and expense
industry and efforts.” (Code of        has not decided on which, if any,         on the plaintiff. The request is
Civ. Proc. section 2018.020.)          expert witnesses may be called at         calculated to annoy and harass
     In analyzing the work-product     trial; insofar as this interrogatory      plaintiff. (See Code of Civ. Proc.
privilege, courts have determined      seeks to ascertain the identity,          section 2030.090 subd. (b); and
that only derivative materials are     writings, and opinions of                 Columbia Broadcasting System,
protected. Derivative work-            plaintiff’s experts who have been         Inc. v. Superior Court of Los
product is that information created    retained or utilized to date solely       Angeles County (1968) 263
by or resulting from an attorney’s     as an advisor or consultant, it is        Cal.App.2d 12, 19 [69 Cal.Rptr.
work on behalf of a client that        violative of the work-product             348, 352].)”
reflects the attorney’s evaluation     privilege. (See South Tahoe                    While this is often a valid
or interpretation of the law or the    Public Utilities District v. Superior     objection, it is rarely a basis for
facts involved. Nonderivative          Court (1979) 90 Cal.App.3d 135            not providing a response. Before
materials are those that are only      [154 Cal.Rptr. 1]; Sheets v.              standing on this objection, sincere
evidentiary in character. These are    Superior Court (1967) 257                 meet and confer efforts should be
not protected even if a lot of         Cal.App.2d 1 [64 Cal.Rptr. 753];          made to resolve the issue.
attorney “work” may have gone          and Sanders v. Superior Court,
into locating and identifying them.    (1973) 34 Cal.App.3d 270 [109                  Collateral source rule:
(Mack v. Superior Court (1968)         Cal. Rptr. 770].)”                        “Objection. This discovery
259 Cal.App.2d 7, 10 [66                     It is improper for an               request seeks information not
Cal.Rptr. 280, 283] .                  interrogatory to seek either the          relevant to the subject matter of
     There is ample case law           identity, writings or the opinions        this lawsuit and not calculated to
delineating derivative versus          of an expert prior to the exchange        lead to the discovery of admissible
nonderivative work product.            of expert witnesses. (South Tahoe         evidence in violation of the
Objections into this are should        Public Utilities District v. Superior     collateral source rule. This request
contain case law on point. The         Court (1979) 90 Cal.App.3d 135,           is also an invasion of Plaintiff's
following cases will assist in         [154 Cal.Rptr. 1].) Plaintiff             right to privacy. (See Hrnjak v.
tailoring your work product            attorneys commonly encounter              Graymar (1971) 4 Cal.3d 725 [94
objection: Mack v. Superior Court      discovery requests which seek             Cal.Rptr. 623]; Pacific Gas &
of Sacramento County; Williamson       medical, biomechanical, or legal          Electric Company v. Superior
v. Superior Court of Los Angeles       conclusions. Often the only               Court (1994) 28 Cal.App.4th 174
County (1978) 21 Cal.3d 829 [148       source of information to respond          [33 Cal.Rptr.2d 522]; and Helfend
Cal.Rptr. 39]; Brown v. Superior       to the interrogatory is from an
Court of Butte County, (1963) 218      expert witness. Since the work-                         Continued next page

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                            Effective Use Of Objections In Responding To Interrogatories

v. SCRTD (1970) 2 Cal.3d 1 [84          to a claim for insurance                 equally available to the
Cal.Rptr. 173].)                        benefits...(2) is collected in           propounding party. (See Code of
     Code of Civil Procedure            connection with or in reasonable         Civ. Proc. section 2030.220 subd.
section 2017.210 permits                anticipation of a claim for              (c); and Alpine Mutual Water Co.
discovery only of                       insurance benefits...” (Ins. Code        v. Superior Court (1968) 259
“insurance...[that] may be liable to    section 791.02 subd. (v).)”              Cal.App.2d 45 [66 Cal.Rptr.
satisfy in whole or in part a                 Unless the case involves an        250].)”
judgment that may be entered in         exception to the collateral source             A party has an obligation to
the action or to indemnify or           rule (Civil Code section 3333.1 or       make a reasonable and good faith
reimburse for payments made to          Government Code section 985), an         effort to obtain requested
satisfy the judgment.” Health           objection should be asserted to          information, “except where the
insurance is not insurance              providing any information about          information is equally available to
available to satisfy a judgment or      health insurance, health insurance       the propounding party.” (Code of
reimburse of payments made to           policies or payments made by a           Civ. Proc. section 2030.220 subd.
satisfy a judgment. Code of Civil       health insurance or other insurance      (c).)
Procedure section 2017.210 was          company, including an objection
enacted to permit a plaintiff to        to Form Interrogatory No. 4.1.                Irrelevant: “Objection.
discover information about a                  Asserting such an objection is     Irrelevant. Plaintiff’s _____ is
defendant's liability insurance in      particularly important in today’s        irrelevant to the subject matter of
order to facilitate settlement. The     climate in which some judges have        this matter, and the information
legislative history, context and        interpreted Hanif v. Housing             sough is not reasonably calculated
purpose of Code of Civil                Authority of Yolo County (1988)          to lead to the discovery of
Procedure section 2017.210              200 Cal.App.3d 635 [246                  admissible evidence. (Code of
demonstrate that the section was        Cal.Rptr. 192] to require a post-        Civ. Proc. section 2017.010.)”
specifically intended to authorize      verdict hearing to reduce                     Again, this may be an
limited discovery of a defendant’s      plaintiff’s medical bills to the         objection worth stating, but is an
liability insurance coverage and        amount actually paid. CAALA              objection which a court generally
not any other type of insurance.        members and an increasing                is not likely to sustain. Broad
(See Catholic Mut. Relief Soc. v.       number of bench officers do not          discovery is permissible by both
Superior Court (2007) 42 Cal.4th        agree that the Hanif case gives the      parties, and a relevancy objection
358 [64 Cal.Rptr.3d 434].)              defendant a right to such a post-        in discovery is largely disfavored.
     Furthermore, personal              trial hearing or reduction, which
financial information is within the     effectively abrogates the collateral          Medical records/medical
“zone of privacy” protected by the      source rule.                             history: “Objection. This
California Constitution, Article I,           Counsel should begin               discovery request seeks to
§1. (Valley Bank of Nevada v.           educating the judge with respect to      discover plaintiff’s medical history
Superior Court (1975) 15 Cal.3d         this issue during discovery, rather      and/or treatment which is
652, 656 [125 Cal.Rptr. 553,            than waiting until after a verdict       completely unrelated to the issues
555]). The Insurance Information        for plaintiff. Furthermore, a more       in this litigation in violation of
Act and Privacy Protection Act,         persuasive argument can be made          plaintiff’s constitutionally
Insurace Code section 793, et seq.,     that there is no evidentiary basis       protected right to privacy under
limits the disclosure of                for a post-trial ruling by the judge     Article I, Section I of the
information in connection with          where there is no admissible             California Constitution. (Vinson v.
insurance transactions. (Griffith v.    evidence of what the insurance           Superior Court (1987) 43 Cal.3d
State Farm Mutual Auto Ins. Co.         company paid on behalf of its            833, 842 [239 Cal.Rptr 292, 299];
(1990) 230 Cal.App.3d 59, 65-71         insured.                                 and Davis v. Superior Court
[281 Cal. Rptr. 165, 167-171].)                                                  (1992) 7 Cal.App.4th 1008, 1014-
“Privileged information” refers to          Equally available:                   1016 [9 Cal.Rptr.2d 331, 335].)
any individually identifiable           “Objection. The information
information that both “(1) relates      sought in this discovery request is                    Continued next page

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                            Effective Use Of Objections In Responding To Interrogatories

     To require plaintiff to            requests. (Code of Civ. Proc.            Angeles County (1975) 15 Cal.3d
delineate his or her entire medical     section 2030.030.) Absent a              1, 5 [123 Cal.Rptr. 283, 287].) A
history is not reasonably               declaration, the responding party is     party is not obligated to perform
calculated to lead to the discovery     still obligated to respond to the        legal research for another party.
of admissible evidence, and             first thirty-five (35) special           (Id.)
overbroad. (Hallendorf v.               interrogatories. (Code of Civ.
Superior Court (1978) 85                Proc. section 2030.030 subd. (c).)           Subparts, compound,
Cal.App.3d 553, 557 [149                                                         conjunctive, or disjunctive:
Cal.Rptr. 564, 566.]) The                    Prefatory instructions and          “Objection. This interrogatory
disclosure of medical history and       definitions: “Objection. This set        contains subparts, or a compound,
medical records cannot be               of discovery utilizes preliminary        conjunctive, or disjunctive
compelled even though they may,         instructions and relies on               question in violation of Code of
in some sense, be relevant to the       preliminary/introductory                 Civil Procedure section 2030.060
substantive issues of litigation.       definitions in violation of Code of      subdivision (f).”
The medical records must be             Civil Procedure section 2030.060
directly relevant to the lawsuit. (In   subdivision (d).”                             Social Security Information:
re Lifschutz (1970) 2 Cal.3d 415,            Written discovery sets often        “Objection. A party’s social
435 [85 Cal.Rptr. 829,842].)”           have prefatory instructions and          security number is “clearly
     In an injury case, the injured     definitions. This is improper.           irrelevant to the subject matter of
parties privacy rights are              (Code of Civ. Proc. section              the action.” (Smith v. Superior
subordinate to the right of             2030.060 subd. (d).) Definitions         Court of San Joaquin County
discovery, but only as to relevant      are proper, but must appear in the       (1961) 189 Cal.App.2d 6, 9, 13,
medical history. Plaintiffs can still   interrogatory itself. (Id.) In           [11 Cal.Rptr. 165, 168, 170].)”
assert their right of privacy to        response, state an objection in
protect the disclosure of medical       each and every request. (Code of              Tax returns and W-2s:
information not directly relevant to    Civ. Proc. section 2030.210 subd.        “Objection. Information regarding
the lawsuit. (Vinson v. Superior        (a)(3).)                                 tax returns, including income tax
Court (1987) 43 Cal.3d 833, 842                                                  returns, W-2 and/or 1099 forms, is
[239 Cal.Rptr. 292, 299].) This              Preparing a defendant’s             privileged under federal and state
applies to mental health records in     case and legal contentions:              law. (See Webb v. Standard Oil
an injury claim where only              “Objection. This discovery               Co. (1957) 49 Cal.2d 509 [319
“garden variety” emotional              request seeks the legal reasoning        P.2d 621]; Brown v. Superior
distress is claimed. (Davis v.          and theories of plaintiff’s              Court (1977) 71 Cal.App.3d 141
Superior Court (1992) 7                 contentions. Plaintiff is not            [139 Cal.Rptr. 327]; Aday v.
Cal.App.4th 1008, 1014-1016 [9          required to prepare the defendant’s      Superior Court (1961) 55 Cal.2d
Cal.Rptr.2d 331, 334-336].)             case. (Sav-On Drugs, Inc. v.             789 [13 Cal.Rptr. 415]; Schnabel
                                        Superior Court of Los Angeles            v. Superior Court (1993) 5 Cal.4th
     More than thirty-five special      County (1975) 15 Cal.3d 1, 5 [123        704 [21 Cal.Rptr.2d 200].) This
interrogatories: “Objection. This       Cal.Rptr. 283, 286].). A plaintiff       privilege is to be broadly
interrogatory fails to comply with      is not required to prepare the case      construed. (Sav-on Drugs, Inc. v.
Code of Civil Procedure section         of his opponent. (Ryan v. Superior       Superior Court (1975) 15 Cal.3d
2030.030 subdivision (b) as the         Court of Los Angeles County              1, 6-7 [123 Cal.Rptr. 283, 287].)”
propounding party has exceeded          (1960) 186 Cal.App.2d 813, 819,
the limit of special                    [9 Cal.Rptr. 147, 151].)”                     Compilation required:
interrogatories.”                            While it is be proper to            “Objection: The interrogatory
     A party may not serve more         discover a plaintiff’s legal             would necessitate the preparation
that thirty-five (35) total special     contentions, the legal reasoning or      of a compilation, abstract, audit or
interrogatories without a               theories behind the contentions are      summary from documents in
supporting declaration setting forth    not discoverable. (Sav-On Drugs,
the need for the additional             Inc. v. Superior Court of Los                           Continued next page

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                           Effective Use Of Objections In Responding To Interrogatories

plaintiff's possession; because
such preparation would be              **
similarly burdensome and/or            Bill Karns is an Attorney with the
expensive to both the propounding      law firm Cheong, Denove, Rowell
and responding parties, plaintiff      & Bennett. Bill serves on the
herewith offers to permit review of    CAALA Board of Governors. He is
the following documents,               also a member of the Consumer
_____________, from which              Attorneys of California (CAOC),
propounding party can audit,           the Los Angeles County Bar
inspect, copy or summarize.            Association (LACBA), the Irish
Responding party will make said        American Lawyers Association,
documents available for review         and the Justice Carlos Moreno Inn
upon reasonable request. (Code of      of Court. Bill is actively involved
Civ. Proc. section 2030.230; and       in all of his professional
Brotsky v. State Bar of California     memberships. He serves on
(1962) 57 Cal.2d 287 [19 Cal.Rptr.     CAALA's Education and New
153].)”                                Lawyers Committees. Bill also
                                       serves as the Barristers liaison to
     Continuing interrogatory:         the LACBA Litigation
“Objection: The question requires      Section. Bill is on the Board of
the responding party to                Governors for the Italian
supplement an answer to it that        American Lawyers Association.
was initially correct, thus
constituting a "continuing"
interrogatory in violation of Code
of Civil Procedure section
2030.060 subd. (g).”


     These “standard” objections
are a helpful starting point in
dealing with interrogatory
responses. Responding to
discovery without giving each
question significant analysis can
cause a lot of damage to your case.
On more important issues, it is
always worthwhile to check all
citations and check for any
changes in the law. The CAALA
website is also a good source of
information regarding any changes
to the law. Defense counsel will
use the information contained your
client's interrogatories at
deposition, and throughout the
case so spend the time necessary
to make sure your client has
provided accurate responses.

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