Judge: Yolanda Orozco, Case: 21STCV26652, Date: 2022-07-29 Tentative Ruling

Case Number: 21STCV26652    Hearing Date: July 29, 2022    Dept: 31

MOTION TO COMPEL FURTHER DISCOVERY

TO FORM INTEROGATORIES IS GRANTED 

Background 

On July 20, 2021, Jane Doe C.M.A. (“Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint against City of Irwindale (erroneously sued additionally as Irwindale Police Department), Mario Camacho, and Does 1 through 100 (collectively, “Defendants”). Plaintiff’s Complaint alleges the following causes of action: (1) Sexual Assault under Color of Authority; (2) Negligence; and (3) Bane Civil Rights Act. 

Plaintiff’s Pitchess Motion for Discovery of Police Officer Records was granted on April 22, 2022. (Min. Or. 04/22/22.) In chambers examination of the documents requested is continued to August 8, 2022. 

On February 24, 2022, Defendant Camacho filed this Motion to Compel Further Responses to Form Interrogatories-General, Set One along with a Separate Statement. 

On July 22, 2022, Defendant Camacho filed a Reply to Opposition to Plaintiff’s Failure to Oppose the Motion.  Defendant Camacho also filed an Objection to Plaintiff’s untimely opposition to Defendant’s motion. 

While it appears that Plaintiff served an Opposition to this Motion, Plaintiff did not filed any Opposition with the Court. 

Evidentiary Objections 

Defendant Camacho’s objection to Plaintiff’s untimely Opposition will not be considered  because Plaintiff has not filed an Opposition with the Court. 

Legal Standard 

A motion to compel further responses to form or specially prepared interrogatories may be brought if the responses contain: (1) answers that are evasive or incomplete; (2) an unwarranted or insufficiently specific exercise of an option to produce documents in lieu of a substantive response; or (3) unmerited or overly generalized objections. (CCP § 2030.300(a).)

 

Notice of the motions must be given within 45 days of service of the verified response, otherwise, the propounding party waives any right to compel a further response. (CCP 2030.300(c).) California Rules of Court, Rule 3.1345 requires that all motions or responses involving further discovery contain a separate statement with the text of each request, the response, and a statement of factual and legal reasons for compelling further responses. (Cal. Rules of Court, Rule 3.1345, subd. (a)(3)).  

Meet and Confer 

A motion to compel further responses must be accompanied by a separate statement listing each discovery request to which a further response is requested, the responses given, and the factual and legal reasons for compelling it. Nothing may be incorporated by reference. (CRC, rule 3.1345(a)(3), (c).)  

Defendant Camacho submitted the Declaration of Artak Mamikony attesting to the defense counsel’s efforts to meet and confer with Plaintiff. (Mamikonyan Decl. Ex. C, D, E, F, H and J.) Therefore, Defendant has complied with the meet and confer requirement. 

Discussion 

Motion to Compel

On July 7, 2022, Plaintiff served Further Responses to Form Interrogatories-General, Set One as to interrogatories 6.2 and 6.3. (Ekimyan Decl. ¶2, Ex. A.) Therefore, the motion is Moot as to interrogatories 6.2 and 6.3. 

However, Defendant Camacho asserts Plaintiff has failed to provide further responses to General Form Interrogatory 12.2. Defendant requests that Plaintiff be ordered to provide a further response to interrogatory 12.2. 

For interrogatories, each answer in the response must be “as complete and straightforward as the information reasonably available to the responding party permits.  If an interrogatory cannot be answered completely, it shall be answered to the extent possible.” (CCP § 2030.220(a),(b).)   

Interrogatory 12.2 asks: 

“Have YOU OR ANYONE ACTING ON YOUR BEHALF interviewed any individual concerning the INCIDENT? If so, for each individual state:

a) The name, ADDRESS, and telephone number of the individual interviewed;

b) The date of the interview; and

c) The name, ADDRESS, and telephone number of the PERSON who conducted the interview.” 

In his Separate Statement, Defendant Camacho outlines why the question is relevant, probative, and likely to lead to discoverable evidence. Plaintiff opposes the interrogatory on the grounds that it seeks attorney work-product, seeks information subject to sexual assault counselor privilege, and psychotherapist privilege. 

On a motion to compel, the responding party has the burden of establishing a valid objection, including any claim of privilege. (Coy v. Superior Court (1962) 58 Cal.2d 210, 220; see also San Diego Professional Ass'n v. Superior Court of San Diego County (1962) 58 Cal.2d 194, 204.) Here, Plaintiff has failed to oppose Defendant’s motion or outline why the information Defendant Camacho seeks is privileged. 

Defendant asserts that if there are no interviews other than privileged interviews, then the plaintiff is required to answer “None” after asserting her objections. Since Plaintiff failed to do so, the response is insufficient. 

The Court agrees. Defendant Camacho’s request that Plaintiff prepare and serve further verified responses, without objection, to Form Interrogatories, General No. 12.2 is GRANTED. 

Sanctions

Sanctions are mandatory in connection with motions to compel responses to interrogatories and requests for production of documents against any party, person, or attorney who unsuccessfully makes or opposes a motion to compel. (CCP §§ 2030.290(c), 2030.300(d), 2031.300(c), 2031.310(h).) However, sanctions are not mandatory if the court “finds that the one subject to the sanction acted with substantial justification or that other circumstances make the imposition of the sanction unjust.” (Id.) 

Defendant Camacho is also seeking sanctions in the amount of $4,264.00 against Plaintiff and/or her counsel of record, Anthony De Marco. Defendant Camacho asserts that Plaintiff’s provided responses after the motion was filed and still failed to respond to all of the discovery at issue. Moreover, counsel for Defendant Camacho tried on several occasions to meet and confer with Plaintiff’s counsel to no avail. (Mamikonyan Decl. Ex. C, D, E, F, H, and J.) 

Counsel for Defendant stated that his hourly rate for this case is $205. (Mamikonyan Decl. ¶ 14.) 13.8 hours were spent preparing this motion and anticipates spending an additional 1.0 hour reviewing the opposition and 6.0 hours preparing a reply. (Id.) Since there was no opposition, defense counsel only spent 13.8 on the motion amounting to a total of $2,829.00. 

The Court agrees that sanctions are warranted under the circumstances, however, the amount sought is excessive and therefore unreasonable. It should not take 13.8 hours to prepare a straightforward motion relating to one interrogatory. The Court will award reduced sanctions and award $1,025.00, for 5 hours of work for preparing the motion and the reply at the billing rate of $205.00 per hour.  

Conclusion 

Defendant Camacho’s Motion to Compel further responses to interrogatory 12.2 is GRANTED.

Defendant Camacho’s request for sanctions is GRANTED in the reduced amount of $1,025.00, for 5 hours. Plaintiff and or Plaintiff’s counsel is ordered to pay the sanctions within 30 days. 

Moving party to give notice. 

The parties are strongly encouraged to attend all scheduled hearings virtually or by audio. Effective July 20, 2020, all matters will be scheduled virtually and/or with audio through the Court’s LACourtConnect technology. The parties are strongly encouraged to use LACourtConnect for all their matters. All social distancing protocols will be observed at the Courthouse and in the courtrooms.