E-Alert Case Updates
Refresher On The Rules Governing Discovery Disputes
Anderson v. Reliance Standard Life Ins. Co.
(D. Md.) (Oct. 11, 2011)
by Kevin M. Cox, Associate
Semmes, Bowen & Semmes (www.semmes.com)
Plaintiff, Brian Anderson, filed a Motion to Compel Discovery, pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 37. According to Plaintiff, Defendant provided “substantially incomplete and evasive” responses to his discovery requests, which he insisted sought relevant information. In his haste to put the discovery disputes before the court for resolution, rather than attempt to resolve them without court intervention, Plaintiff failed to comply with FED. R. CIV. P. 37(a), Local Rules 104.7 and 104.8, Guideline 1.A of the Court’s Discovery Guidelines, and case law, see, e.g., Mancia v. Mayflower Textile Servs. Co., 253 F.R.D. 354, 357-58 (D. Md. 2008). Therefore, Plaintiff’s motion was denied without prejudice, to re-file the motion in compliance with the aforementioned rules.
The memorandum opinion and order written by United States Magistrate Judge Paul W. Grimm provides all attorneys a refresher course for resolving discovery disputes. In pertinent part, Judge Grimm recognizes the following rules for resolving discovery disputes:
- Litigants have an obligation to cooperate with respect to planning and executing discovery or resolving discovery disputes. A party cannot file a motion to compel with the court without first working cooperatively with the other party to resolve the dispute.
- When a party asserts that the opposing party provides substantially inadequate discovery responses, the asserting party must follow the procedure set out in Local Rule 104.8. That rule requires that the parties try to resolve disputes regarding the adequacy of discovery responses informally, without involving the court. If that is unsuccessful, then the requesting party may serve a motion to compel on the opposing party (not the court), receive a response, and serve a reply. Only after this exchange may the requesting party file the papers with the court, and only if the dispute still remains despite the party’s sincere efforts to resolve it.
- Boilerplate objections are expressly prohibited by FED. R. CIV. P. 33(b)(4), which provides that “[t]he grounds for objecting to an interrogatory must be stated with specificity.” Case law states that objections to discovery, including Rule 33 Interrogatories and Rule 34 Document Production Requests, must be specific, non-boilerplate, and supported by particularized facts where necessary to demonstrate the basis for the objection.
- Judge Grimm concluded his opinion by providing a recommendation to attorneys who cannot resolve their discovery disputes on their own, in order to facilitate and expedite the court’s resolution of any remaining discovery disputes. This is a less-formal approach to the exchange required by Local Rule 104.8. Pursuant to Judge Grimm’s recommendation, the party asserting that the opposing party provided substantially inadequate discovery responses shall create a four-column spreadsheet in Microsoft Word format. The first column will list the number of each disputed interrogatory or document request. The second column will contain a brief explanation (100 words or less) of the relevance of the interrogatory or documents requested by reference to a claim or defense that is pending, and identify what has not been produced. The third column will permit the opposing party to respond briefly (100 words or less) to the asserting party’s comments. The below illustration is Judge Grimm’s recommended spreadsheet.