Consumer protection lawsuits in federal court: part 12 — request for production of documents

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Request for production of documents is a type of discovery that instead of asking for written answers (like interrogatories), this request is for paper and electronic documents. You can think of it as “Don’t tell me what the documents or videos say, just give me the documents or videos etc.”

What can you request with this type of discovery?
Basically any physical item or piece of data however it is stored. Here are examples:

**Emails **Policy manuals **Pictures **Audio files **Video files **Inspect land or a building or an office **CDs **Thumb drives **Cloud storage **Letters **Paper documents **Bank records
Who can make the request?
Any party can use request for documents.

Who has to answer the request?
Only other parties — this type of discovery is for the parties. Now if a non party has documents, we use subpoenas to get their documents and we’ll cover those in a different article.

How long do you have to answer a request for documents?
30 days from when you receive the request.

Can you object to the request for documents?
Yes if there is something wrong with a particular request, you can object to it. The obligation is to answer the request as best as you can and only object to the part that is truly objectionable.

What if you don’t answer them?
The other side can file a motion to compel.

What is a motion to compel?
This is where the “asking” party tells the court that the other side won’t respond or won’t respond properly. The court can take away objections, can force the non responsive side to pay for attorney fees, and can take other more drastic action.

What if you just want the other side to admit or deny certain facts and don’t care about the documents?
Then you use what is known as a “Request for Admission” that we will discuss in our next article.

We hope you are enjoying our series on consumer protection lawsuits in federal court.

Give us a call at 205-879-2447 if you have any questions and we’ll be glad to help you any way we can.

Thanks!

John Watts

PS — the rule for request for production of documents is Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34. Here is the text of that rule….

Rule 34. Producing Documents, Electronically Stored Information, and Tangible Things, or Entering onto Land, for Inspection and Other Purposes

(a) In General. A party may serve on any other party a request within the scope of Rule 26(b):

(1) to produce and permit the requesting party or its representative to inspect, copy, test, or sample the following items in the responding party’s possession, custody, or control:

(A) any designated documents or electronically stored information-including writings, drawings, graphs, charts, photographs, sound recordings, images, and other data or data compilations-stored in any medium from which information can be obtained either directly or, if necessary, after translation by the responding party into a reasonably usable form; or
(B) any designated tangible things; or
(2) to permit entry onto designated land or other property possessed or controlled by the responding party, so that the requesting party may inspect, measure, survey, photograph, test, or sample the property or any designated object or operation on it.

(b) Procedure.

(1) Contents of the Request. The request:

(A) must describe with reasonable particularity each item or category of items to be inspected;

(B) must specify a reasonable time, place, and manner for the inspection and for performing the related acts; and
(C) may specify the form or forms in which electronically stored information is to be produced.

(2) Responses and Objections.

(A) Time to Respond. The party to whom the request is directed must respond in writing within 30 days after being served or – if the request was delivered under Rule 26(d)(2) – within 30 days after the parties’ first Rule 26(f) conference. A shorter or longer time may be stipulated to under Rule 29 or be ordered by the court.

(B) Responding to Each Item. For each item or category, the response must either state that inspection and related activities will be permitted as requested or state with specificity the grounds for objecting to the request, including the reasons. The responding party may state that it will produce copies of documents or of electronically stored information instead of permitting inspection. The production must then be completed no later than the time for inspection specified in the request or another reasonable time specified in the response.

(C) Objections. An objection must state whether any responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of that objection. An objection to part of a request must specify the part and permit inspection of the rest.

(D) Responding to a Request for Production of Electronically Stored Information. The response may state an objection to a requested form for producing electronically stored information. If the responding party objects to a requested form-or if no form was specified in the request-the party must state the form or forms it intends to use.

(E) Producing the Documents or Electronically Stored Information. Unless otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, these procedures apply to producing documents or electronically stored information:

(i) A party must produce documents as they are kept in the usual course of business or must organize and label them to correspond to the categories in the request;

(ii) If a request does not specify a form for producing electronically stored information, a party must produce it in a form or forms in which it is ordinarily maintained or in a reasonably usable form or forms; and
(iii) A party need not produce the same electronically stored information in more than one form.

(c) Nonparties. As provided in Rule 45, a nonparty may be compelled to produce documents and tangible things or to permit an inspection.

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