You have been sued (or have sued someone else), and now the opposing party has sent you a stack of questions and is asking for a bunch of emails and other documents.
Do you have to give them what they are asking for? Yes (usually).
After a lawsuit has begun, statutes allow each side to ask the other side questions and request documents. This is called “Discovery,” and it is an essential part of the litigation process. It allows each side to begin to build his/her case and gives him/her a glimpse at the strengths and weaknesses of the other side. Often, the information that is exchanged during the discovery process can lead to settlement of the case.
What is Discovery:
In its most basic form, Discovery Requests are a series of questions or requests for documents that must be answered truthfully and completely. I have previously blogged about “what is discovery” and described the three main types of discovery requests: Interrogatories, Requests for Production of Documents, and Requests for Admissions. Interrogatories are a series of questions to be answered under oath. Requests for Production of Documents are just as they appear; requests that you send specific types of documents to the other party. Requests for Admissions ask that the recipient of the request either admit or deny certain specific things.
Discovery Requests carry statutory deadlines, and it is important to be aware of those. In Nebraska, the party that receives the requests typically only has thirty (30) days to respond and provide the information requested. If the requested answers, documents, or information are not sent to the opposing party before that deadline, it can have adverse effects on the case. Often, the court will deem that unanswered questions are admitted, which can lead to an adverse ruling.
Answering Discovery Requests:
Responding to discovery requests from the opposing party is not optional. When answering discovery requests, it is important that your answers are truthful and complete. Though it may be tempting to withhold an email or some other document that does not look good for you, doing so can be met with strict penalties which could adversely affect the outcome of your lawsuit more than turning over the requested information would have.
Discovery Requests are answered “to the best of your knowledge” and you are only required to supply documents that are within your control or that you can reasonably and readily obtain. As a result, you do not typically have to create a document that is requested by the other side, if the document is not already in existence.
There are narrow exceptions for what types of documents need to be supplied, despite a request from opposing party. The most common exception is that of attorney-client privilege; you do not need to supply private communications between you and your attorney.
It is important to work closely with your attorney in answering Discovery Requests, as your attorney will be able to ensure that privileged information is protected, and your attorney can help you to craft your answers in the most appropriate way.
Updating your Answers:
You must update your discovery responses during the course of litigation. In other words, as the lawsuit progresses, if you become aware of more information or find more documents that are responsive to the requests you previously received, you must still supply those to the other party. The other party is not required to ask if you have more information related to their prior requests.
The discovery process is an important part of litigation, as it allows you to get the evidence needed to build your case. When responding to those requests, it is important to provide truthful and complete information to the best of your knowledge. Call the trial attorneys at Goosmann Law Firm, PLC, in our Omaha law firm, Sioux City law firm, or Sioux Falls law firm, and we can help guide you through the process and protect your interests. For more information visit our Trial Law Review Blog!
 See “What is Discovery?”, http://blog.goosmannlaw.com/trial-lawyer-on-you-side/what-is-discovery