Motion to Compel Further Responses to Discovery (Judge Deborah C. Servino)


FORM INTERROGATORIES

Plaintiff Chelsey Lee Wood’s motion to compel Defendant Annie Huang’s further responses to her form interrogatories is granted in part and denied in part as set forth below.  Plaintiff’s motion to compel Defendant Phong Trach Ngo’s further responses to her form interrogatories is granted in part and denied in part as set forth below.

A party may move to compel further responses to interrogatories on the grounds that the answer is evasive or incomplete, an exercise of the option to produce documents under Code of Civil Procedure section 2030.230 is unwarranted or the required specification of those documents is inadequate, and/or an objection to an interrogatory is without merit or too general.  (Code Civ. Proc., § 2030.300, subd. (a).)   If a timely motion to compel has been filed, the burden is on the responding party to justify any objection or failure to fully answer the interrogatories.  (Fairmont Ins. Co. v. Superior Court (2000) 22 Cal.4th 245, 255.)

The form interrogatories at issue are the same for both Defendants.

No. 15.1 

The motion is granted as to this interrogatory.  Defendants state that discovery is still in its preliminary phase and state that depositions and expert discovery have not been conducted.  However, this case has been pending since July of 2020. Well over a year ago, in April of 2021, Defendants filed their Answer stating their affirmative defenses that are the subject of this interrogatory.  No mention is made of written discovery.  A further response is warranted.

No. 16.1

This interrogatory asks if Defendants contend any other person contributed to the incident or Plaintiff’s injuries, and then has a number of subparts regarding the related facts, witnesses, documents.  Defendants’ response stated, “Not at this time”.  This response is sufficient. The motions are denied as to this interrogatory.

No. 16.2

This interrogatory asks if Defendants contend that Plaintiff was not injured in the incident. Defendants responded “No.”  The motions are also denied as to this interrogatory.

Nos. 16.3-16.8

These interrogatories ask about Defendants’ contentions with respect to Plaintiff’s injuries and damages.  Defendants responded: “Discovery has just recently commenced, and it is still continuing and ongoing. Therefore, responding Party has not yet had an opportunity to obtain the information necessary to provide a meaningful response to this request.”  This response is evasive.  The motions as to these interrogatories are granted.

Nos. 16.9 and 16.10

These interrogatories ask if Defendants have any documents regarding other claims for personal injuries made by Plaintiff, or if they have any documents from healthcare providers regarding Plaintiff that were not previously identified.  Defendants’ responses, “No,” are sufficient. The motions are denied as to nos. 16.9 and 16.10.

No. 17.1

This interrogatory asks about Defendants’ responses to the requests for admissions that are not unqualified admissions, and contains a number of subparts regarding facts, witnesses and documents.

Each answer in the response must be “as complete and straightforward as the information reasonably available to the responding party permits. If an interrogatory cannot be answered completely, it shall be answered to the extent possible.” (Code Civ. Proc. § 2030.220(a), (b) (emphasis added).) “Where the question is specific and explicit, an answer that supplies only a portion of the information sought is improper. It is also improper to provide “deftly worded conclusionary answers designed to evade a series of explicit questions.” (Deyo v. Kilbourne (1978) 84 Cal.App.3d 771, 783.)

The responses to no. 17.1 are not completely responsive.  Therefore, the motions are granted as to this interrogatory.

Defendants are ordered to serve further verified responses to those discovery requests for which the motion is granted, without further objections, within 20 days of the notice of ruling.

 

The Court denies all parties’ requests for sanctions.

 

SPECIAL INTERROGATORIES (HUANG)

Plaintiffs motion to compel Huang’s further responses to her special interrogatories is granted in part and denied in part as set forth below.

Nos. 2 and 4

No. 2 asks Huang to “state what you contend was the cause of the incident.” No. 4 asks Huang whether “you contend Plaintiff was negligent at the time of the incident.

Huang responds that she has no contention at this time.  These responses are sufficient.

 No. 5

This interrogatory asks Huang to state all facts supporting “your contention that Plaintiff was negligent,” to which Huang responds, “not applicable.”

The motion is denied as to this interrogatory.  Huang’s response is sufficiently responsive.

Nos. 6-14

These interrogatories ask about Huang’s purported contentions (e.g., “do you contend Plaintiff was not injured as a result of the collision”).  Huang responds that she “does not make said contention at this time . . .”

These responses are adequate.  The motion as to these interrogatories is denied.

No. 16

This interrogatory asks Huang to identify Ngo’s intended destination prior to the collision.

In the separate statement, Huang states that Huang has since served further responses.  However, counsel’s declaration references form interrogatories, not special interrogatories. (Borisov Decl., at ¶ 13.)  Therefore, because there is no evidence that further responses have been served, the Court grants the motion as to this interrogatory.

Nos. 22-24

These interrogatories asks Huang to state all facts, witnesses and documents supporting her contention that she is not liable for Plaintiff’s damages.  Huang responded that she “lacks sufficient personal knowledge to provide a meaningful response and defers to experts retained by the parties.”

Huang’s response is evasive.  These interrogatories appear to be proper contention interrogatories. The motion is granted as to these interrogatories.

Nos. 25-28

These interrogatories concern Huang’s contentions as to whether there are factual errors in the traffic collision report.

Huang responded: “Responding party lacks sufficient personal knowledge to provide a meaningful response and defers to experts retained by the parties.”  Huang notes that she/Huang was not present at the scene. In light of this, the Court denies the motion as to these requests.

Within 20 days of the notice of ruling, Huang is ordered to serve further verified responses to those discovery requests, without any further objections, for which the motion is granted

Both parties’ requests for sanctions are denied.

SPECIAL INTERROGATORIES (NGO)

 

Plaintiff’s motion to compel Ngo’s further responses to her special interrogatories is granted in part and denied in part as set forth below.

Nos. 2 and 4

No. 2 asks Ngo to “state what you contend was the cause of the incident”.  No. 4 asks Ngo whether “you contend Plaintiff was negligent at the time of the incident.”

Ngo responds that he has no contention at this time.  These responses are sufficient.

 No. 5

This interrogatory asks Ngo to state all facts supporting “your contention that Plaintiff was negligent,” to which Ngo responds, “not applicable.”

The motion is denied as to these interrogatories.  The Court finds Ngo’s responses to be sufficiently responsive.

Nos. 22 and 28

In response to nos. 22 (identify your intended destination prior to the collision) and 28 (regarding investigations conducted), Ngo states that he has since served further responses. However, counsel’s declaration references form interrogatories, not special interrogatories. (Borisov Decl., ¶ 13.)  Therefore, because there is no evidence that further responses have been served, the Court grants the motion as to these interrogatories.

Nos. 29-35

These interrogatories ask for Ngo’s contentions regarding liability, and information regarding the traffic collision report.

Ngo responded: “Responding party lacks sufficient personal knowledge to provide a meaningful response and defers to experts retained by the parties.”

An interrogatory may properly ask a party to state his or her contentions as to any matter or issue in the case; and the facts, witnesses or writings on which the contentions are based. (Code Civ. Proc., § 2030.010(b); see Burke v. Superior Court (1969) 71 Cal.2d 276, 281.) “An interrogatory is not objectionable because an answer . . . relates to fact or the application of law to fact, or would be based on . . . legal theories . . .” ( Code Civ. Proc., § 2030.010, subd. (b).)

Ngo’s response is evasive.  Therefore, the Court grants the motion as to these interrogatories. Within 20 days of the notice of ruling, Ngo is ordered to serve further verified responses, without further objections, to those discovery requests for which the motion is granted.

Both parties requests for sanctions are denied.

 

REQUESTS FOR ADMISSION (HUANG)

 

Plaintiff’s motion to compel Huang’s further responses to her requests for admission is granted in part and denied in part as set forth below.

Nos. 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15

These requests ask Huang to admit certain facts relating to her negligence, causation, and Plaintiff’s lack of negligence.

In response, Huang states: “Responding party cannot admit or deny this request as responding party is still investigating the circumstances of the accident. However, responding party will supplement, revise, or modify this response when additional information is obtained if requested by this propounding party.”

The motion is denied as to these requests.  The Court finds that Huang’s responses are sufficient under the circumstances, and given the discovery that has yet to occur.

Nos. 5, 16, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 31, 32, and 33

These requests ask Huang to admit that Plaintiff was harmed, that Plaintiff has never been injured prior to the incident, and other information regarding Plaintiff’s injuries.

Huang responded: “Responding party lacks sufficient personal knowledge to either admit or deny the request at this time,” or “Responding party lacks sufficient personal knowledge with the respect to the subject matter of the request to enable responding party to respond with an admission or denial.”

The motion is denied as to these requests.  The responses are adequate.

Nos. 17-21

These requests ask Huang to admit certain facts regarding liability, causation, and damages.

The motion is denied as to these requests, for the same reason it is denied as to nos. 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15.

No. 30

This request asks Huang to admit that due to the collision, Plaintiff sustained a left shoulder injury for which she underwent a specified procedure.

In response, Huang states: “Admit in part and deny in part.”

Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 2033.220, subdivision (b),

Each answer shall:

(1) Admit so much of the matter involved in the request as is true, either as expressed in the request itself or as reasonably and clearly qualified by the responding party.

(2) Deny so much of the matter involved in the request as is untrue.

The motion is granted as to no. 30. Huang must specify which part of the request is admitted and which part is denied.

Nos. 34 and 35

No. 34 asks Huang to admit there are no factual errors in the traffic collision report. No. 35 asks Huang to admit that Huang’s vehicle caused Plaintiff’s vehicle to flip over.

The motion is denied as to these requests for the same reasons stated above with respect to Nos. 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15.

Within 20 days of the notice of ruling, Huang is ordered to serve further verified responses, without any further objections, to those discovery requests for which the motion is granted.

Both parties’ requests for sanctions are denied.

REQUESTS FOR ADMISSION (NGO)

 

Plaintiff’s motion to compel Ngo’s further responses to her requests for admission is granted in part and denied in part as set forth below.

Nos. 3-16

These requests ask Ngo to admit certain facts relating to his negligence, causation, and Plaintiff’s lack of negligence.

In response, Ngo states: “Responding party cannot admit or deny this request as responding party is still investigating the circumstances of the accident. However, responding party will supplement, revise, or modify this response when additional information is obtained if requested by this propounding party.”

Code of Civil Procedure section 2033.220, subdivision (c) states that “If a responding party gives lack of information or knowledge as a reason for a failure to admit all or part of a request for admission, that party shall state in the answer that a reasonable inquiry concerning the matter in the particular request has been made, and that the information known or readily obtainable is insufficient to enable that party to admit the matter.”

The motion as to these requests is denied.  The Court finds that Ngo’s response, while not technically Code-compliant, is sufficient at this time under the circumstances.

No. 18

This request asks Ngo to “Admit YOU were in violation of C.V.C. §21453(A) while driving the DEFENDANT VEHICLE at the time of the SUBJECT COLLISION.”

In response, Ngo states: “Responding party cannot admit or deny as responding party lacks personal knowledge with respect to the subject matter of this request and refers this propounding party to all formal discovery exchanged between the parties during the course of the subject lawsuit.”

The Court grants the motion as to this request.

Nos. 20-25, 27-30, 33-35, 37-39

No. 20 asks for Ngo to admit facts relating to liability. Nos. 21-23 ask Ngo to admit facts relating to causation. Nos. 24-25 ask Ngo to admit facts relating to damages. Nos. 27, 28, 29, 30, 33, 34, 35, 37, 38, and 39 pertain to Plaintiff’s injury history.

In response to all of these, Ngo states: “Pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure Section 2033.220, though a reasonable inquiry concerning the matter in this particular request has been made, the information known or readily obtainable is insufficient to enable Responding Party to admit the matter. Therefore, the request cannot be admitted and must be denied. Responding party reserves the right to amend this response should new information become known. Discovery is ongoing and continuous.”

These responses are Code-compliant. The Court denies the motion as to these requests.

No. 31

 

This request asks Ngo to admit to driving the vehicle at an unsafe speed.  In response, Ngo states: “Responding party cannot admit or deny this request as responding party is still investigating the circumstances of the accident. However, responding party will supplement, revise, or modify this response when additional information is obtained if requested by this propounding party.”

The motion is granted as to this request.

No. 36

This request asks Ngo to admit that due to the collision, Plaintiff sustained a left shoulder injury for which she underwent a specified procedure.

Ngo only objected, stating that this calls for expert testimony and a legal conclusion.  The Court sustains Ngo’s objections and denies the motion as to this request.

No. 40

This request asks Ngo to admit that his vehicle caused Plaintiff’s vehicle to flip and roll over.

Ngo only objected, again on grounds that this calls for expert testimony and a legal conclusion.  The Court also sustains Ngo’s objections and denies the motion as to this request.

Within 20 days of the notice of ruling, Ngo is ordered to serve further verified responses, without any further objections, to those discovery requests for which the motion is granted.

Both parties’ requests for sanctions are denied.

Plaintiff shall give notice of the rulings.