Unless there is a specific section of the Discovery Act authorizing it, an award of sanctions may not be imposed. So the $2.5 million in sanctions awarded for the City of Los Angeles’s “egregious” abuses in City of Los Angeles v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLC (D2d5 Oct. 20, 2022 No. B310118) ---- Cal.Rptr.3d ---- (2022 WL 12010415) was reversed. The city’s attorneys had colluded with a nominally adverse party in a separate class action in order to enrich the attorneys and orchestrate damages against PricewaterhouseCoopers, and successfully hid that fact for two-and-a-half years through discovery abuse.
Bad as this was, the sanctions for the egregious abuse could not stand. The statutes generally providing for sanctions, sections 2023.010 and 2023.030, are only a definitional and do not themselves authorize any sanctions.
But dissenting, Justice Grimes raised this devastating point: There is no specific provision of the Discovery Act that sanctions spoliation of evidence, either. So if sections 2023.010 and 2023.030 do not authorize sanctions, then the majority’s holding has rendered spoliation—and here, the city attorneys’ two-and-a-half-years-long campaign of “obstruction, obfuscation, and outright lies”— as mere wrongs without a remedy. Just another one of those bummer things about the practice of law that no one can do anything about.