The Seven-Hour Deposition Comes to California

If you own a business or serve as a C-level executive, chances are good that you have been subjected to at least one deposition in your work life. If the litigation stakes were high enough, you may even have endured several days of deposition.  In this law firm, we have attended a deposition in which the witness was deposed for 28 full days (!) — and Irving Younger, the late federal judge and renowned law professor, claimed in one of his books that a deposition in a federal antitrust case lasted a whopping nine and one-half years!  (We have had no luck getting independent verification of that fact.)

For several years, the federal courts have sensibly limited deposition length to a maximum of seven hours over one day (unless the parties agree otherwise, or the court orders it in a particular case).  Now, beginning in January 2013, California courts will join the federal system in limiting the number of hours a witness can be forced to sit for deposition.  Beginning next year, witnesses in most lawsuits in California cannot be forced to sit for adverse questioning for more than seven hours (although, unlike the federal rule, those seven hours can stretch over more than one day).  Also unlike the federal rule, the new California rule has specific exceptions.  The main exceptions are that depositions are not capped at seven hours in employment cases or cases that are designated “complex”; further, depositions of organizations (colloquially referred to as “PMK” depositions, referring to the “person most knowledgeable” in a business or other entity), and depositions of expert witnesses (in any cases), are exempted from the new seven-hour limitation.

So, if you are in a lawsuit right now, you might want to have your deposition scheduled for after the New Year — you have nothing to lose but time.