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 to a Request Which Seeks Admission of a Matter of Opinion
The discovery process can be long and contentious, but it serves a vital role in settling a case. In fact, when the discovery process is thorough, the case can settle more quickly, often without even going to court. Texas Rules of Civil Procedure define specific rules and parameters for each party in a case. When one party does not adhere to those guidelines, the other party has the right to object. Otherwise, the expectation is that both parties will share evidence and information as requested.
One type of request that frequently leads to an objection is one which seeks admission of a matter of opinion. Such requests, which include the sometimes gray area of sorting fact from opinion, are objectionable. This particular type of objection was critical in the case of White v. Watkins, a landlord and a lessor. A series of contentions included conclusions, opinions, and other subjective statements which should not have been admitted as facts. One objectionable claim, for example, was that the lessor moved into the property “intending to control the same to the exclusion” of the landlord. That premise contains statements interpreting intentions of the lessor and is thus more subjective than factual. White v. Watkins, 385 S.W.2d 267, 269 (Tex. App.—Waco 1964, no writ). More recently in the case of Motor Car Classics LLC., v. Abbott, the focus was on the sequence of events leading to the sale of a vehicle. While the application of law to fact is allowable according to Rule 198.1 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, this case asked for facts relating to laws of jurisdiction. If the focus had been on whether or not the party was bound to Texas court jurisdiction, the focus of the request would have been only a legal focus.
A proper objection might include the following language:
OBJECTION: This request asks responding party to admit to conclusions, opinions, and statements of subjective intent. White v. Watkins, 385 S.W.2d 267, 269 (Tex. Civ. App.—Waco 1964, no writ); Boulet v. State, 189 S.W.3d 833 (Tex. App.— Houston [14th Dist.] 2006, no pet.)
Determining what is a matter of opinion and what is a matter of fact can be especially difficult during the discovery process. While the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure exist to help define objectionable actions, working with an experienced lawyer who is knowledgeable about all the complexities of litigation is an important step toward achieving the best possible outcome for a client.
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