Responding to Discovery: How to Save Time and Money
January 6th, 2020
Discovery requests can feel daunting and overwhelming; you may not have any idea where to begin. Take a few minutes to read through our previous discovery post to familiarize yourself with what exactly discovery is in a Maryland case.
Here are some tips that will save time and money when responding to discovery:
- Begin with the Interrogatories. This will get you in the proper mindset to answer the entirety of the discovery requests. The questions listed in the Interrogatories need to be answered as completely and thoroughly as possible. Complete sentences are generally the most appropriate, although certain questions with multiple subsections may be more clearly answered in bullet points.
- If you must reference certain documents to fully answer an Interrogatory – have that document available to be produced. Do not summarize the document, simply reference the document for now. Answers to Interrogatories must be signed under oath, so it is important that your written answers are accurate.
- Start at the first question and work your way through to the end. If a question is confusing or you believe it’d be helpful to speak with your attorney before fully answering, highlight that question and move on to the next one. It is more efficient to draft answers to as many Interrogatories as you can, and make a list of questions or concerns to be discussed with your attorney. Scheduling a single phone call with your counsel (or his or her staff) is more cost-effective than multiple phone calls or emails throughout the process.
- Answer the question that is asked. This is not an opportunity to tell your story. In crafting your answers, you should read the questions carefully and refrain from providing a narrative style response that provides information that is beyond the scope of the question.
- Some questions may be objectionable. Some questions may ask for answers that are overly broad or unduly burdensome, or the question itself may be too ambiguous for you to answer properly. Other questions may seek information that is privileged. If you are working with an attorney, it is best that you attempt to answer each question and not rely objections. The information that you provide will be helpful to your counsel for planning purposes and he or she can edit your response to remove those portions that are objectionable.
Request for Production of Documents
A Request for Production of Documents requires you to make certain documents available for review, inspection, and/or photocopying. These days, most documents are available and provided to the opposing party in an electronic manner. While answering the Interrogatories, you may find that you generated a list of documents that you referenced or collected. This will be the first-step in collecting the documents you are required to produce.
- Go through each request from the beginning, in the same manner that you handled the Interrogatories. If there are any confusing requests, move to the next one. Each request will ask for a certain type of document, some may overlap, and some may not be applicable to you. You are required to produce all requested documents that are in your possession, custody, or control. This includes documents that are available to you, but in the possession of third-parties (your bank, your employer, etc.)
- Does the document exist? Where? What efforts do you need to make to get it? In response to each request for documents, you should note if the document exists or not. If the document exists, you should note what documents are available and responsive to the request. Then, note where the documents are kept and what you will need to do to retrieve them. Documents can be gathered physically, digitally, or through a combination of those. These days most requested statements are available online and are easily downloadable. If you create a digital file of documents, make sure to name your files in a manner that will allow a reviewer to quickly determine what the document is and the Request to which the documents correspond. This will make it easier for you, and your attorney, to keep track of what you have produced.
- Your documents can be produced in the order in which they are kept. Generally speaking, the more organized you are able to retrieve and produce documents – the easier it will be for your attorney to review. Nonetheless, you are not required to create an elaborate filing system. We recommend that you organize your documents chronologically (oldest to newest – so they tell a story) and by account or request. Do not delete pages and don’t add in any handwritten notes on the documents. You may redact account numbers or social security numbers to protect your privacy.
- You are not required to create documents that do not exist. The documents you do need to produce are the ones that you can access (either physically or digitally); are in your name; and/or you have the ability to retrieve.
- Privileged documents do NOT need to be produced. Some examples might be attorney-client work-product or doctor-patient communications. Documents must relevant to the subject matter involved in the case, or reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Just because you believe a document might be damaging to your case does not mean that you can hide it. In fact, if you destroy documents or other evidence that is relevant to the facts in your case, it could cause you to be subject to sanctions or other penalties.
The Law Office of Shelly M. Ingram, LLC regularly assists our clients with discovery requests and questions. If you were served with discovery and you don’t have an attorney, we would welcome the opportunity to speak with you in a confidential office consultation to discuss the facts of your case and your discovery options. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.