New Year, New Laws for Civil Litigators

By Julie Brook, Esq. [Reprinted by Permission]

The California legislature has enacted new laws that may affect your litigation practice. Here are some of the key statutory changes you need to know about. Mediation clients must be notified in writing of confidentiality restrictions. There’s a new requirement for attorneys representing clients in mediation. As soon as reasonably possible before a client agrees to participate in a mediation consultation or session (or as soon as reasonably possible after being retained by a client who has already agreed to participate in a mediation consultation or session), the attorney must provide the client with a printed disclosure that explains the confidentiality restrictions related to mediation. The attorney must also obtain a signed acknowledgment from the client stating that he or she has read and understands the confidentiality restrictions. Attorneys representing mediation participants in a class or representative action, however, are exempt from this new disclosure rule. Although failure to comply with this new law cannot be used to set aside an agreement following mediation, any document relating to an attorney’s compliance with the disclosure requirements could be used in an attorney disciplinary proceeding (so long as the document does not disclose anything said or done during the mediation). See Evid C §§1122, 1129 (amended and added by Stats 2018, ch 350, effective January 1, 2019). On mediation confidentiality, check out CEB’s California Trial Objections §32.6A. 

It’s getting easier to compel further discovery responses. Good news for parties demanding more information. Courts are now authorized to permit parties seeking augmented responses to submit a concise outline consisting of each discovery request and each disputed response in lieu of a separate statement (which normally requires moving parties to include six categories of information) as part of a motion to compel further discovery responses. See CCP §§2030.290, 2030.300, and 2030.310 (amended by Stats 2018, ch 317, effective January 1, 2020. On motions to compel discovery, turn to CEB’s California Civil Discovery Practice §§15.30-15.58. 

More time for court to rule on motions for new trial or to vacate. The time for a court to rule on a motion for new trial or motion to vacate was extended from 60 to 75 days after notice of entry of judgment is mailed by the clerk or served by the moving party, whichever is earlier. Litigators take note: If the trial judge fails to rule on the motion within the new 75-day period, the motion is deemed denied. See CCP §§660, 663a (amended by Stats 2018 ch 317, effective January 1, 2019). Once such a motion is deemed denied, the court has no further jurisdiction to grant the motion. See Garibotti v Hinkle (2015) 243 CA4th 470, 480. For more on these motions, see California Trial Practice: Civil Procedure During Trial §§25.56, 25.77. 

New evening hours for personal service. Personal service can now interrupt dinnertime. The hours during which a notice or other paper in a civil action may be personally served on a party, attorney, or person 18 years or older at the party’s residence have been expanded from 8 a.m. to 6 pm to 8 am to 8 pm. See CCP §1011 (amended by Stats 2018, ch 212, effective January 1, 2019). 

Get more of these key legislative updates in CEB’s free 2018 NewsFlash! Key Statutory Developments for Civil Litigators. To keep up with all developments in civil litigation, subscribe to CEB’s OnLAW® Litigation Library—a virtual encyclopedia for litigation, full of commentary, practice advice, and sample documents.