California Appears Ready to Impose Deposition Time Limits in Asbestos Cases

By July 17, 2017 Mesothelioma

On July 3, 2017,California’s State Assembly was poised to vote on a new law that aims to significantly alter deposition procedures for many asbestos cases filed in the state of California. As it stands, the bill has been read a third time and was amended on July 10th, inching ever closer toward being passed.

Asbestos plaintiffs and defendants alike should be aware of the new changes that could be brought about if the bill does indeed pass.

New Changes to Deposition Time Limits

Under the new bill that is sponsored by the Consumer Attorneys of California, the bill would give a defense team in California seven hours to complete an asbestos deposition if the plaintiff can show they are too old or ill to undergo a lengthier deposition. The current standard is 14 hours.

Practically, this bill will be of a material benefit to asbestos victims who file lawsuits. For years, California plaintiffs in asbestos cases have felt they are being questioned too stringently. A journalistic piece in the ABA Journal shed light on this issue, noting that lengthy asbestos depositions are largely an issue that is exclusive to California.

It is not uncommon for plaintiffs to be subjected to drawn out depositions that can take weeks to finish, only after hours of intense questioning. Some plaintiff lawyers  mentioned in the ABA Journal piece argue these tactics are meant to “run out the clock” or to harass sick asbestos victims into dismissing their legal claims since California clients must be alive during trial to make a pain and suffering claim.

In 2013, California courts emulated federal law standards by limiting most civil depositions to seven hours. An exception was made for asbestos cases, given their typical complexity. Asbestos cases were given a 14-hour limit in California.

The newly proposed bill, then, would set the same deposition limit for many asbestos cases as there already exists for most other California civil depositions. Specifically, the new law would state that any civil action for asbestos-related injuries or illnesses must be limited to seven hours of total testimony if either of the following are true:

  1. A licensed physician attests to the fact that a plaintiff in the deposition is over 70 and the individual’s health is in such a state that a deposition of more than 7 hours would harm their well-being
  2. A licensed physician says that, regardless of age, the individual being deposed is of such a condition that there is substantial medical doubt whether the individual will survive beyond six months

In summary, either very old or very sick victims will likely not be subjected to overly lengthy depositions that go beyond seven hours of testimony if this bill becomes law.

Contact us for a legal consultation to discuss your asbestos illnesses or injuries with a California asbestos and mesothelioma lawyer who will protect your legal rights while pursuing legal compensation for your injuries.