New Appellate Decision on Deposition Time Limits May Benefit Defendants in Asbestos Litigation

by Sally Hosn

New Appellate Decision on Deposition Time Limits May Benefit Defendants in Asbestos Litigation

Asbestos has been linked to a number of serious problems in people who have been exposed to the material.

On January 8, 2014, the California Court of Appeal issued an opinion holding that the deposition time limits for certain cases may be extended past the seven-hour rule set by the California Code of Civil Procedure. Under Code of Civil Procedure1] section 2025.290, the deposition of a witness by opposing counsel must be limited to a total of seven hours of examination, except under certain circumstances, such as complex and preference cases. (§ 2025.290, subd. (a).)When a case is designated as complex, and a physician has signed a declaration that the deponent is unlikely to survive longer than six months, the deposition time limit may be extended to a total of 14 hours of examination. (§ 2025.290, subd. (b).) However, according to the recent California Court of Appeal ruling, the Court has discretion to allow depositions to extend any time limits imposed by section 2025.290.

In Certainteed Corporation v. The Superior of Los Angeles County (Jan, 8, 2014, B253308) __Cal.App.4th ___, the Court of Appeal responded to a trial court’s request to issue an opinion regarding the trial court’s authority to allow additional deposition time in asbestos cases, reiterating its earlier stance that such extra time is permitted on a case-by-case basis. In issuing its opinion, the appellate court analyzed the deposition time limits statutorily imposed by section 2025.290. In particular, the Court focused on the section of 2025.290 which states that “the Court shall allow additional time, beyond any limits imposed by this section, if needed to fairly examine the deponent.” (§ 2025.290, subd. (a).)

Traditionally, this has been read as only applying to the seven-hour time limit. However, in the opinion of the Court of Appeals the word “section” implies that the Court’s ability to extend deposition time limits applied equally to the seven-hour and 14-hour deposition time limits. The Court of Appeal held that “both the seven-hour limit and the 14-hour limit are presumptive only and are plainly subject to the discretionary authority of the trial court to allow additional deposition time.” (Certainteed v. The Superior of Los Angeles County, __Cal.App.4th__[p 4].)

This latest decision indicates that deposition time limits in asbestos cases have become much more flexible. This ruling from the Court of Appeal should greatly benefit asbestos defendants. Generally, asbestos cases involve many defendants and plaintiffs that are often both elderly and ill. Such factors severely limit a defendant’s ability to effectively depose plaintiffs within the time limits previously required under section 2025.290. However, going forward, upon a showing that such factors affect the ability to fairly examine a deponent, the Court may in its discretion, allow a deposition to extend beyond the time limitation previously imposed by section 2025.290.

Sally Hosn is an associate in the toxic torts department of Poole & Shaffery, LLP. Ms. Hosn’s practice primarily focuses on defending entities against toxic torts and chemical exposure claims.