Types of Civil Discovery in California

Civil discovery is one of the most important processes during civil litigation. This process allows each side the opportunity to discover facts and evidence from the other side. There are various types of civil discovery methods. They are:


Form interrogatories

Optional-use standard questions included in Judicial Council forms. No limitation as to how many may be propounded on party in unlimited civil cases. In limited cases, discovery is limited to any combination of 35 form interrogatories, special interrogatories, demands to produce and requests for admissions.

Special interrogatories

Special interrogatories are questions not covered by the Judicial Council form interrogatories and are limited to 35 questions. If there is a need for additional interrogatories beyond the 35 statutory limit, then a Declaration for Additional Discovery must be included. A responding party can object to interrogatories over the allowed 35 by filing a motion.

Demand for production of documents and/or inspection of records

Any party may demand another party to:

  • Produce and permit the inspection and copying of documents which the propounding party believes are relevant to the civil case and which documents are believed to be in the possession, custody or control of that party;
  • Produce and permit the inspection, photographing, testing or sample of any tangible item which is relevant to the case and believed to be in the possession, custody or control of that party;
  • Allow the propounding party to enter on land or property to measure, survey, photograph, test or sample the land, property or any designated object or operation on it which is relevant to the case and believed in the possession, custody or control of that party or
  • Allow the propounding party to inspect, copy, test or sample electronically stored information in possession, custody or control of that party.

Requests for admissions

This is a procedure in which a party is requested to admit or deny statements of fact, not questions. It often serves the purpose of defining and narrowing the disputed areas in a case. It also can be used to verify the genuineness of documents.


A deposition is a procedure where oral testimony, under oath, is obtained through a direct examination and cross-examination of a party or witness prior to trial. The testimony is preserved in writing and/or on video. A deposition is the only discovery procedure where evidence can be obtained from both parties as well as witnesses.

Demand for physical exam

Any defendant may request one (1) physical examination of a plaintiff in an action requesting recovery for personal injuries.


A subpoena is an order issued under authority of the court to compel the attendance of a nonparty witness. It requires the personal appearance of either a person, records or both.

Request for Statement of Damages

When a complaint or cross-complaint is filed to recover damages for personal injury or wrongful death, the defendant may request a statement by the plaintiff which specifically identifies the nature and amount of damages they are seeking.

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