Discovery- A Necessary Tool
In the course of a lawsuit, the Plaintiff and Defendant have the opportunity to request information from each other regarding the case. The purpose of discovery is to encourage and allow each party to find out what evidence the other party has in support of its case. This process allows the parties to determine the strengths and weaknesses of their case and their opponent’s case. Some of the mechanisms for obtaining information include Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, and Depositions.
The parties are allowed by the Rules of Civil Procedure to ask questions and seek documentation covering a broad subject matter, as long as they can show it relates to the case in some way. As an illustration, the Defendant can ask the Plaintiff general questions about its business, who its officers are, and whether it has been involved in previous lawsuits.
However, some questions are off limits, as the Rules allow for certain objections. A party can object to a question for several reasons. For example, a party does not have to provide information that is protected by the attorney client privilege (which protects confidential communications between a party and its attorney). The Rules provide a certain time limit for responding to discovery requests, which is generally thirty days and can be extended for an additional thirty days. If responses are not provided in that time, then any objections to the questions are waived. If a party has to file a Motion to Compel discovery because the other party will not respond, then the Court can order the non-responsive party to pay the attorneys’ fees incurred in seeking the Order to Compel. Thus, it is important to respond timely to discovery to avoid these implications.
Discovery is an important part of the litigation process, and can have a major impact on the ultimate outcome of the lawsuit. In fact, we were able to exclude a Defendant’s defense at a recent trial as a result of its faulty discovery responses.
The discovery process can be tedious and time consuming, but can lead to a favorable outcome in the case if done properly and carefully.