Mesa AZ | Personal Injury attorney Brian T. Allen answers the following question:
Q: I was just released from the hospital after a serious boating accident. I am planning to file a personal injury claim against another boater who I believe was responsible for the accident and my injuries. However, this will be my first involvement in a lawsuit. I am trying to learn everything I can before I hire an attorney and start my case. I have learned a little bit about discovery, but I want to ask some questions. First, what is the purpose of discovery? Second, are there limits on what the other boater can find out about me, and on what I can find out about him? Finally, what if I do not want to give up information? Can I just say no?
A. Thank you for the questions. First, the purpose of discovery is to allow the parties to obtain information from each other on the evidence and witnesses that will be presented at trial. On its website, the American Bar Association explains that:
Discovery enables the parties to know before the trial begins what evidence may be presented. It’s designed to prevent “trial by ambush,” where one side doesn’t learn of the other side’s evidence or witnesses until the trial, when there’s no time to obtain answering evidence.
So, discovery serves both efficiency and fairness: it allows the parties to gather information so that they may effectively prepare for trial, and it works to prevent the so-called “trial by ambush,” which keeps the trial fair for both parties.
Your second question refers to the subject of scope of discovery – the “boundaries,” so to speak. Rule 26(b) of the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure sets out the general boundaries of discovery as follows:
Parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action, whether it relates to the claim or defense of the party seeking discovery or to the claim or defense of any other party, including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition and location of any books, documents, or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons having knowledge of any discoverable matter. It is not ground for objection that the information sought will be inadmissible at the trial if the information sought appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.
In other words, information must fit within the following parameters to be discoverable:
It must be relevant to the subject matter of your case.
It must not be privileged information (attorney-client privilege, doctor-patient privilege, etc.)
If the information would be admissible at trial (like hearsay), it must at least lead to information that would be admissible.
To answer your third question, it is usually advisable to answer discovery requests from the other party, or you may face court sanctions. However, in certain situations you may be able to say no.
These are quite limited though, and to say no without facing sanctions you will need court approval. Basically, you will need to tell the court why you refused a discovery request, and the court will decide whether to compel discovery (force you to respond) or let your refusal stand. The court may decide to side with you and limit discovery if any of the following is true about a discovery request:
(i) The discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or obtainable from some other source that is either more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive;
(ii) The party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity by discovery in the action to obtain the information sought; or
(iii) The discovery is unduly burdensome or expensive, given the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, limitations on the parties’ resources, and the importance of the issues at stake in the litigation.
Of course, the court may also limit or terminate a discovery request if the information sought plainly does not fit within the three parameters discussed earlier (relevant, not privileged, lead to admissible evidence).
If you “say no” to a discovery request, you must be prepared to answer to the court as to why you said no. If the court finds your answer unsatisfactory, you will likely be compelled to respond and you may even face sanctions. So, to give a short answer to your question: yes, you can say no. However, you better have a good reason for doing so.
Discovery is a very complicated process, and it is absolutely imperative to know how discovery works and what you can gain (or lose) from it. Discovery can make or break your case, so the help of an experienced personal injury attorney could be invaluable to you. If you have further questions on this subject, or if you would like to seek the help of an experienced Mesa AZ |Personal Injury Attorney, please give us a call.
This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you need legal advice regarding Mesa AZ|Scope of Discovery or any other personal injury, please feel free to contact Brian T. Allen at 480.461.5335, log on to udallshumway.com, or contact an attorney in your area. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.