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Lopez v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Inc.

Court of Appeal of California, Fourth Appellate District, Division One

April 14, 2016, Opinion Filed

D066388

Case Summary

Overview

HOLDINGS: [1]-A trial court properly ordered the production of documents requested by plaintiff in his action against a religious organization alleging his Bible instructor had sexually abused him as a child because the requests sought relevant information, were not overly broad, and did not impose an undue burden; [2]-The court erred in ordering the organization to produce a member of the religion's governing body entity for his deposition under Code Civ. Proc., § 2025.280, as the record did not support its finding he was the organization's "managing agent," and it thus erred in sanctioning the organization for the member's nonattendance at the deposition; [3]-The court erred in issuing terminating sanctions as the initial remedial measure without first attempting to compel compliance with its discovery orders by using lesser sanctions and/or by imposing evidentiary or issue sanctions.

Outcome

Managing agent production order, order granting terminating and monetary sanctions, and default judgment vacated.

LexisNexis® Headnotes

 

 

Civil Procedure > Appeals > Standards of Review > Abuse of Discretion

Civil Procedure > Judicial Officers > Referees > Determinations, Findings & Reports

Civil Procedure > Discovery & Disclosure > Discovery

HN1  Abuse of Discretion

A court may direct a special reference to a discovery referee to resolve the parties' discovery disputes. Code Civ. Proc., § 639. If the trial court orders the reference without the parties' consent, the referee's factual findings are advisory recommendations only; they are not binding unless the trial court adopts them. Code Civ. Proc., § 644. subd. (b). In determining whether to adopt the findings, the court must independently consider the referee's findings and any objections and responses thereto filed with the court. § 644, subd. (b). The court has broad discretion to determine the best method for considering a party's challenges to the referee's findings, and the court is not required to hold a hearing or conduct a de novo analysis of the underlying arguments. § 644, subd. (b). In its review, the court should give the referee's findings great weight and focus on the parties' objections to those findings. An appellate court examines the trial court's decision to accept the referee's recommendation for an abuse of discretion.

 

Evidence > ... > Presumptions > Particular Presumptions > Regularity

HN2  Regularity

Absent a contrary indication on the record, an appellate court is required to accept the trial court's statements and presumes the trial court complied with its statutory duties.

 

Civil Procedure > Judicial Officers > Referees > Determinations, Findings & Reports

Civil Procedure > Discovery & Disclosure > Discovery

HN3  Determinations, Findings & Reports

Code Civ. Proc., § 644, subd. (b), requires only that the trial court independently consider the referee's findings and any objections and responses to these findings. § 644, subd. (b). Although a court's review of the referee hearing transcript and/or the initial discovery objections may be helpful under certain circumstances, the rules do not mandate this in every case.

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246 Cal. App. 4th 566 ; 201 Cal. Rptr. 3d 156 ; 2016 Cal. App. LEXIS 284 

JOSE LOPEZ, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. WATCHTOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY OF NEW YORK, INC., Defendant and Appellant.

Subsequent History: Time for Granting or Denying Review Extended Lopez v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Soc'y of N.Y., 2016 Cal. LEXIS 7401 (Cal., July 18, 2016)

Review denied by, Request denied by Lopez v. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.., 2016 Cal. LEXIS 6755 (Cal., July 27, 2016)

Prior History:  [1] APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of San Diego County, No. 37-2012-00099849-CU-PO-CTL, Joan Lewis, Judge.

Disposition: Reversed.