The focus of this series is the various issues which cause objections during the discovery process, outlined below:
Permissibility of Discovery Tool
Number of Interrogatories
Outside the Scope of Discovery
Lacks Specific Description within Request
Vagueness, Lacks Specificity, or Ambiguity of Request
Information Obtainable from Another Source
Information Equally Available to the Other Party
Documents Already Produced
Request Creates Unnecessary Burden, Expense, or Made for Purposes of Harassment
Creation of Document not in Existence
Electronic and Magnetic Data
Personal, Constitutional or Property Rights
Inconvenient Time or Place
Information Unknown or Not in Possession of Responding Party
Persons with Knowledge of Relevant Facts
Request Seeks Admission of a Legal Proposition
Seeks Admission of Hearsay
Seeks Admission of a Matter of Opinion
Assertions of Privilege
Objection due to Overly Broad Request
During the discovery process, a party may ask for information which is relevant to the case, and which is helpful in providing evidence and/or resolving the case. The responding party is expected to cooperate with these requests, providing information even if that information may be harmful to that party’s case. In order to ensure that the discovery process is productive and fair, Texas Rules for Civil Procedure provide exact guidelines for requests and responses. Therefore, when a request does not follow those rules, the responding party may object. One common error which leads to objections is making a request that is overly broad. In the case of Texaco, Inc. v. Sanderson, for example, the court reiterated that a request must be limited in time, place, and subject matter. See Texaco, Inc. v. Sanderson, 898 S.W.2d 813, 815 (Tex. 1995). While the responding party must provide evidence that the request is overly broad, objections about exact time, place, and subject matter are allowable and helpful, especially if the opposing party is “fishing for evidence.” K Mart Corp. v. Sanderson, 937 S.W.2d 429, 431 (Tex. 1996). This objection is also useful when a request does not place a limit on time, place, or subject matter. While a litigant may have some freedom when making a discovery request, that person must also “make an effort to impose reasonable discovery limits.” In the case of In re American Optical, for example, the request for documents spanning the previous 50 years was deemed overly broad by the Texas Supreme Court. In re Am. Optical Corp., 988 S.W.2d 711, 713 (Tex. 1998).
Many other examples of objections to requests with a broad focus support the importance of narrowing requests in order to avoid objections.
A proper objection might include the following language:
OBJECTION: The Request is overly broad and constitutes a fishing expedition. K-Mart Corp. v. Sanderson, 937 S.W.2d 429, 431 (Tex. 1996); Dillard Dep’t Stores, Inc. v. Hall, 909 S.W.2d 491, 492 (Tex. 1995).
Finding the balance when requesting information is not easy; if the request is too narrow, the litigant may miss important evidence, but if it is too broad, the request becomes objectionable. Finding a lawyer knowledgeable about litigation ensures that requests follow the exact guidelines and rules in order to avoid objections, streamlining what is often a challenging experience.
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