Discovery: Gather Information for your Case
Discovery is a formal legal process through which parties to a case gather information and evidence from each other. This can be the most important step in a case because it allows the parties to obtain the information and evidence needed to present their arguments; to determine what evidence the other side plans to present at trial; and helps the parties focus their cases on the issues that are truly in dispute, which saves time and money at trial. In some cases, the information and evidence obtained during discovery points out strengths in your case, or weaknesses in the opposing party’s case, which can lead to settlement offers.
Discovery procedures take place outside of court. Parties are expected to work with each other to obtain discovery and resolve disputes. Court intervention is only allowed after the parties have attempted to resolve disputes on their own.
California law places strict limits on the numbers, types, and timing of discovery requests. Because of this, developing a discovery plan is crucial to most litigants, to ensure that they are able to obtain the information they need for trial.
Litigants have several discovery methods available to them in a civil case. The methods used will depend on what information and documents are needed in the case.
During the discovery process, it is not uncommon to encounter problems. The most common problem is that the opposing side fails to respond to your formal discovery requests. If the opposing side fails to respond to a request for admissions, you may ask the court for an order to have the facts you sought to have the other side admit deemed true. If the opposing side fails to respond to your form or special interrogatories, or a request for production, you may file a motion seeking an order that the opposing party be compelled to respond. Another common problem occurs when the opposing party responds to your requests, but the responses are incomplete. In that situation, you may ask the court for an order compelling the opposing party to provide further responses.
The Law Library has guides on the most common of these types of motions. See these guides for background information and step-by-step instructions on each type of motion.
This material is intended as general information only. Your case may have factors requiring different procedures or forms. The information and instructions are provided for use in the Sacramento County Superior Court. Please keep in mind that each court may have different requirements. If you need further assistance consult a lawyer.