California Bill Limiting Deposition Time Set to Take Effect January 1, 2013

This week Governor Jerry Brown signed A.B. 1875 into law, adding Section 2025.290 to the California Code of Civil Procedure. The law, which will take effect on January 1, 2013, requires that many depositions be limited to seven hours in total. While the seven hour limit is the default under the new rule, several exceptions apply. A court may authorize additional time if “needed to fairly examine the deponent or if the deponent, another person, or any other circumstance impedes or delays the examination,” and parties may stipulate that the default limit does not apply to specific depositions or to the entire proceeding. The seven hour limit does not apply to complex litigation, expert witnesses, employment cases, or parties added after the deposition has concluded. Despite the exemption for depositions in complex litigation, a 14 hour limit will be applied to complex litigation depositions where a witness has a fatal medical condition, evidenced by a medical affidavit attesting there is a substantial doubt the witness will survive for another six months.

The new law is similar to deposition limitations under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and that of several other states. Fundamentally, the new law shifts the burden from counsel for the deponent, who formerly had to seek a protective order from the court to avoid an excessively long deposition, to the counsel of the party taking the deposition, who will soon have to secure the agreement of the other parties or obtain an order from the court to obtain more than seven hours of deposition time in specific circumstances.