Effective January 1, 2016 before filing a demurrer in a civil action the parties are required to meet and confer. The design of the statute is obviously to cut down on unnecessarily demurrers that clog our court system. Many of these demurrers result in curable pleadings that really become unnecessary. We think the key to a good demurrer is determining whether it has a chance to legitimately completely knock out a claim. If it does, then it can be of real value. If it does not have a chance of resolving everything, sometimes it is better to force the plaintiff to proceed on their bad complaint – which is something that can come back to haunt them on summary judgment. In my opinion this code section needs a fee shifting mechanism to penalize parties for failing to meet and confer – without it it may lack the teeth to make this requirement real.
Here is the text of the new code section:
(a) Before filing a demurrer pursuant to this chapter, the demurring party shall meet and confer in person or by telephone with the party who filed the pleading that is subject to demurrer for the purpose of determining whether an agreement can be reached that would resolve the objections to be raised in the demurrer. If an amended complaint, cross-complaint, or answer is filed, the responding party shall meet and confer again with the party who filed the amended pleading before filing a demurrer to the amended pleading.
(1) As part of the meet and confer process, the demurring party shall identify all of the specific causes of action that it believes are subject to demurrer and identify with legal support the basis of the deficiencies. The party who filed the complaint, cross-complaint, or answer shall provide legal support for its position that the pleading is legally sufficient or, in the alternative, how the complaint, cross-complaint, or answer could be amended to cure any legal insufficiency.
(2) The parties shall meet and confer at least five days before the date the responsive pleading is due. If the parties are not able to meet and confer at least five days prior to the date the responsive pleading is due, the demurring party shall be granted an automatic 30-day extension of time within which to file a responsive pleading, by filing and serving, on or before the date on which a demurrer would be due, a declaration stating under penalty of perjury that a good faith attempt to meet and confer was made and explaining the reasons why the parties could not meet and confer. The 30-day extension shall commence from the date the responsive pleading was previously due, and the demurring party shall not be subject to default during the period of the extension. Any further extensions shall be obtained by court order upon a showing of good cause.
(3) The demurring party shall file and serve with the demurrer a declaration stating either of the following:
(A) The means by which the demurring party met and conferred with the party who filed the pleading subject to demurrer, and that the parties did not reach an agreement resolving the objections raised in the demurrer.
(B) That the party who filed the pleading subject to demurrer failed to respond to the meet and confer request of the demurring party or otherwise failed to meet and confer in good faith.
(4) Any determination by the court that the meet and confer process was insufficient shall not be grounds to overrule or sustain a demurrer.
(b) A party demurring to a pleading that has been amended after a demurrer to an earlier version of the pleading was sustained shall not demur to any portion of the amended complaint, cross-complaint, or answer on grounds that could have been raised by demurrer to the earlier version of the complaint, cross-complaint, or answer.
(c) If a court sustains a demurrer to one or more causes of action and grants leave to amend, the court may order a conference of the parties before an amended complaint or cross-complaint or a demurrer to an amended complaint or cross-complaint, may be filed. If a conference is held, the court shall not preclude a party from filing a demurrer and the time to file a demurrer shall not begin until after the conference has concluded. Nothing in this section prohibits the court from ordering a conference on its own motion at any time or prevents a party from requesting that the court order a conference to be held.
(d) This section does not apply to the following civil actions:
(1) An action in which a party not represented by counsel is incarcerated in a local, state, or federal correctional institution.
(2) A proceeding in forcible entry, forcible detainer, or unlawful detainer.
(e)(1) In response to a demurrer and prior to the case being at issue, a complaint or cross-complaint shall not be amended more than three times, absent an offer to the trial court as to such additional facts to be pleaded that there is a reasonable possibility the defect can be cured to state a cause of action. The three-amendment limit shall not include an amendment made without leave of the court pursuant to Section 472, provided the amendment is made before a demurrer to the original complaint or cross-complaint is filed.
(2) Nothing in this section affects the rights of a party to amend its pleading or respond to an amended pleading after the case is at issue.
(f) Nothing in this section affects appellate review or the rights of a party pursuant to Section 430.80.
(g) If a demurrer is overruled as to a cause of action and that cause of action is not further amended, the demurring party preserves its right to appeal after final judgment without filing a further demurrer.
(h) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2021, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute, that is enacted before January 1, 2021, deletes or extends that date.
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