What Is Written Discovery?
When a case is filed in either federal or state court, pursuit of such is referred to as “litigating a case.” Litigating requires that the parties meet a variety of deadlines and move through various phases that are necessary to pursue the case. One such “phase” is discovery. During discovery, the parties work to obtain all necessary information and/or documents to either pursue the case, if the party is the plaintiff, or defend the case, if the party is the defendant.
Pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, there are generally three (3) types of written discovery:
- Interrogatories: Interrogatories are written questions that require the receiving party to answer in their own words.
- Requests for production: Requests for Production ask for the receiving party to produce certain types of documents and/or items.
- Requests for admission: Requests for Admission seek to have the receiving party admit or deny certain things in the case, such as a statement of fact or the authenticity of a document. Generally, a receiving party is required to respond to the foregoing discovery items and to do so within thirty (30) days.
Objecting to Written Discovery
Although a party receiving written discovery must generally answer the requests and produce responsive documents, certain requests may be subject to various objections. An objection(s) to discovery is an assertion that a question or request is improper for a specific reason or the response to the same is protected from disclosure.
Objections that may be used in the course of discovery include, but are not limited to the following:
- Unduly burdensome,
- Overly broad
- Protected by the attorney-client privilege
- Work product doctrine
Sometimes, these objections may be asserted and no response provided. However, at other times, these objections may be asserted and then a response provided, while notating that the objections are not being waived.
Improper Use of Objections
Although certain objections are generally acceptable under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, there are times when objections are inappropriate. Additionally, a party cannot merely list the objections and move on. Rather, more is required.
The grounds for a party’s objection must be stated with specificity and, for requests to produce documents, any objection must also state whether any responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of such objection(s).
Additionally, the Northern District of Alabama has clearly articulated that generalized objections without explanation and justification are unacceptable as they permit the party responding to discovery to determine whether it has complied with its discovery obligation. The requesting party does not have sufficient information to understand the scope of the objection or to make any argument regarding why the objection is improper or inaccurate.
The Court has also stated that “[s]uch boilerplate objections, without more, ‘are inadequate and tantamount to not making any objection at all.’” Therefore, merely listing objections, regardless of whether an additional response is provided, is improper without also including an explanation of the grounds for the objections.
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