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Some of the sweeping changes just made to the California Superior Court system will apply to depositions in worker’s compensation litigation, and will permanently allow remote depositions without consent of all parties.

The superior court system and the Appeals Board have distinct and separate rules of practice and procedures. Most of the new law will therefore not apply to worker’s compensation litigation.

But, both systems share the discovery statutes. Depositions in workers’ compensation are allowed by Labor Code section 5710 provides that “the deposition of witnesses residing within or without the state to be taken in the manner prescribed by law for like depositions in civil actions in the superior courts of this state under Title 4 (commencing with Section 2016.010) of Part 4 of the Code of Civil Procedure.”

Governor Newsom just signed Senate Bill No. 1146, a new law that makes substantial changes to litigation in superior courts. However, since some of these changes pertain to how depositions are taken in superior courts, Labor Code 5710 would make those changes applicable to discovery in worker’s compensation as well.

The new law amends Section 2025.310 of the Code of Civil Procedure, which is also specifically applicable to workers’ compensation depositions. The following are the key new provisions of the deposition process.

A deponent is not required to be physically present with the deposition officer when being sworn in at the time of the deposition.”

“Subject to Section 2025.420, any party or attorney of record may, but is not required to, be physically present at the deposition at the location of the deponent.”

In essence, these provisions eliminate the requirement that consent is required to conduct a deposition by remote methods. Although workers’ compensation depositions have been conducted remotely since the beginning of the pandemic as a result of temporary workers’ compensation rules, the remote deposition process is now a permanent part of the litigation landscape in both civil and workers’ compensation proceedings.

Senate Bill 1146 was declared an “urgency statute” and thus takes effect immediately.