California’s New Deposition Time Limits

Effective January 1, 2013 and subject to certain exceptions, the duration of a witness deposition is limited to seven hours of total testimony. (CCP §2025.290(a).) The new limitation brings state law into accord with federal law, which has a similar seven-hour rule. (See FRCP 30(d)(1).)

The new rule is not entirely rigid, nor does a court have unfettered discretion in shaping its application. For example, in cases where additional time is needed to “fairly examine” the witness, or where the deponent, another person, or some circumstance impedes or delays the deposition, the court “must” allow additional time. (CCP §2025.290(a).)

Additionally, the seven-hour rule expressly does not apply in the following circumstances:

  • If a court order, including a case management order, provides otherwise;
  • When the parties have stipulated that §2025.290 will not apply to the deposition or to the entire case;
  • In depositions of expert witnesses;
  • In complex cases, unless a licensed physician declares that the deponent suffers from an illness or condition that raises substantial medical doubt of survival beyond six months, in which case the deposition by all counsel, other than the witness’s counsel of record, is limited to two days of no more than seven hours of total testimony each day, or fourteen hours of total testimony;
  • In employment cases;
  • In “Person Most Qualified” depositions; and
  • When a party appears in the action after the deposition has concluded, in which case the new party may notice another deposition, which will still be subject to §2025.290. (CCP §2025.290(a)-(b))

Finally, the enumerated exclusions “shall not be construed to create any presumption or substantive change to existing law relating to the appropriate time limit for depositions falling within the exclusion. (CCP §2025.290(c).)

Importantly, the new rule does not interfere with a party’s right to move for an appropriate protective order to protect the deponent from unwarranted annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, undue burden, or expense. (CCP §2025.290(c).)