RFA “Sanctions” Are Not True Sanctions, But More Akin To Damages Or Attorney’s Fees Precluded By Federal Statute.
City of Glendale v. Marcus Cable Associates, LLC, Case No. B249094 (2d Dist., Div. 5 Mar. 18, 2015) (published) is an interesting case showing how costs-of-proof sanctions relating to California request for admissions are not true “sanctions” in the discovery sense of the word, with this distinction being vital in a case where a preemptive federal statute limited the remedies which could be entered against a local cable franchising authority.
In this one, the trial judge entered CCP § 2033.420 costs-of-proof sanctions against Glendale (the governmental franchising authority) in a suit brought by Charter, Glendale’s cable provider, about whether Charter could realign Glendale’s public, educational and government channels without Glendale’s consent. Eventually, Charter won costs-of-proof sanctions relating to certain RFA items. However, this was reversed on appeal because the appellate court determined that a federal statute—47 U.S.C. § 555a(a), part of the Cable Communications Policy Act—“preempted” any ability to impose costs-of-proof sanctions given a remedy limitations restricting remedies to injunctive or declaratory relief. The 2/5 DCA panel determined that RFA costs-of-proof sanctions were not true “sanctions” (after all they are made after trial and in connection with activities to eliminate the need for proof, not like other discovery efforts which are aimed at obtaining proof), but more akin to damages or attorney’s fees precluded under the federal limiting statute.