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 Request Outside the Scope of Discovery
While discovery exists to allow the exchange of information relevant to a claim, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure place boundaries on the reach of discovery, thus keeping the focus of discovery on information important to settling a claim, ideally before it goes to trial. For example, Rule 192.3(a) states that when information is “neither relevant nor reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence,” a litigant has good reason to offer an objection to the request. Information that is privileged or irrelevant is also open to objection.
Interrogatories which fall outside of the scope of discovery are objectionable as well. TEX. R. CIV. P. 197.1. While discovery allows a request for evidence, requesting a responding party to provide an unreasonable amount of proof, proof that is irrelevant, or proof that will be presented in trial is objectionable. In one case, for example, a party requested the net worth of a litigant even though nothing in the case was pertinent to that person’s net worth. Al Parker Buick Co. v. Touchy, 788 S.W.2d 129 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1990, no writ). In another case, a party requested information spanning thirty years about all employees of a company. In re CSX, 124 S.W.3d 149, 152 (Tex. 2003). The requests in both cases were found to fall outside the scope of discovery, and the responding parties correctly and successfully objected to the requests.
A proper objection might include the following language:
OBJECTION: This Request is outside the scope of discovery as allowed by the TEXAS RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE. This Request seeks information outside the permissible scope of discovery. The information sought is neither relevant nor reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. In re CSX Corp., 124 S.W.3d 149, 152 (Tex. 2003); Axelson, Inc. v. McIlhany, 798 S.W.2d 550, 553 (Tex. 1990).
The discovery process provides relevant information which frequently focuses a case, potentially even leading to its being settled outside of court. Working with a lawyer familiar with the rules regarding the scope of discovery will help a litigant avoid irrelevant, unnecessary requests and file appropriate objections as necessary.
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