There is no 5th amendment privilege in civil cases.
Why, because there is no statutory or constitutional protection in civil cases.
The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advice" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also avvo.com terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.
Mr. Doland is correct. The Fifth Amendment is a protection from criminal responsibility. That's why it says you cannot in"crim"inate yourself. You can't be held criminally liable in a civil action. Discuss this with your lawyer. If you don't have one and are concerned about possible criminal activity, get one.
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I would disagree with my colleague. DeCamp v Kingsington (1978) 83 Cal. App. 3d 268 dealt with a situation where a corporation and an individual both refused to file verified answers as it would be an admission of fraud. The Court held that the Corporation had no right against self incrimination but the individual defendant did.
Not to incriminate yourself is a privilege you must assert. If you answer part of a question that is covered by the privilege, you waive that privilege and once waived, its gone forever. Now, to answer your question, in a civil case you may not be punished for the assertion of a privilege but, there are evidence codes that state if a party has the power to produce evidence, or fails to explain evidence and does not do so, then the court may find the party less credible in not producing the evidence or taking the other sides facts as presented as you failed to explain them away (based upon the assertion of privilege)
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