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Definition - What does Discovery mean?

Discovery includes the deposition (sworn testimony obtained prior to a trial), production of the documents, medical examinations, and requests for admission. Discovery is limited to relevant matters in the injury case and protects attorney-client privilege.

Purpose of Discovery

Discovery allows the litigants to exchange information and prepare for the case before the civil trial. Through discovery the plaintiff and the defendant can review witness statements and documents, allowing each party to spend their time at trial focusing on disputed issues. Discovery is especially useful for creating efficiency for a judge and jury and often allows the litigants to settle prior to trial.

Discovery can include any information relevant to the subject matter for the pending action which is not considered irrelevant or privileged. According to California's Civil Discovery Act, Code of Civil Procedure Section 2017.010, "Discovery may be obtained of the identity and location of persons having knowledge of any discoverable matter, as well as of the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any document, tangible thing, or land or other property."

Failure to participate in discovery

Civil cases rely heavily on documentation. Parties must swear that they have provided all the required documentation or an explanation for why certain documents cannot be produced.

If a litigant fails to respond to a subpoena for information during the discovery process they can be charged with contempt of court. Punishment for contempt can include imprisonment or monetary fines, although a hearing is generally held to allow the noncompliant party to explain their noncompliance. The most common reason for noncompliance is the claim of privilege.


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