Monday, July 23, 2012

Objections to Written Discovery Requests: Overly Broad

      An overly broad discovery request lacks specificity as to time, place, and/or subject matter being requested. However, overbroad is not a valid objection unless it can be shown that the request imposes an undue burden or seeks discovery that is not relevant to the subject matter of the case. When objecting to discovery on the grounds of over-breadth, be prepared to be specific and provide plenty of support for your objection. The producing party has the burden “to provide sufficient detail in terms of time, money and procedure required to produce the requested documents...unless it is obvious from the wording of the request itself that it is overbroad, vague, ambiguous or unduly burdensome, an objection simply stating so is not sufficiently specific.” City of Seattle v. Prof’l Basketball Club, LLC, 2008 WL 539809 (W.D. Wash. Feb. 25, 2008).

      Objections based on over-breadth often relate to the issue of relevance of the subject matter. Pursuant to both C.R.C.P. 26(b)(1) and F.R.C.P. 26(b)(1), any discovery sought must be likely to lead to the discovery of admissible information (which, to be admissible, must be relevant). Relevancy is broadly construed under the rules, and C.R.C.P. 26(b)(1) states that, “For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action. Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Thus, when objecting to discovery on the grounds that it is overly broad and lacking relevance, be prepared to demonstrate that the requested discovery either (1) does not come within the scope described in Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1); or (2) is of such marginal relevance that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure.  Simpson v. University of Colorado, 220 F.R.D. 354, 350 (D. Colo. 2004).  However, “when a request for discovery is overly broad on its face or when relevancy is not readily apparent, the party seeking the discovery has the burden to show the relevancy of the request.” Cunningham v. Standard Fire Ins. Co., 2008 WL 2668301 (D. Colo. July 1, 2008).
 
      Following are some sample objections to overly broad discovery requests, including applicable legal authority. Always verify case law to ensure that it is up-to-date.

     1. This discovery request is so broad and unlimited as to time and scope as to be an unwarranted annoyance, embarrassment, and is oppressive. To comply with the request would be an undue burden and expense. The request is calculated to annoy and harass. “Although the law generally favors discovery, the scope of discovery is not limitless.” Silva v. Basin Western, Inc., 47 P.3d 1184, 1188 (Colo. 2002).

     2. Objection is made to the production request because it is overly broad and is not in compliance with C.R.C.P. 34(b), which requires the request to specify the items to be produced or inspected, either by individual item or category, and describe with reasonable particularity each item and category.

     3. This request is overbroad, and it constitutes an abuse of the discovery process, because it purports to ask [Producing Party] to plead and prove its entire case, and to marshal all evidence, in response to one written interrogatory.

     4. This interrogatory is overly broad and unduly burdensome because it requires [Producing Party] to create and provide the equivalent of a lengthy narrative or otherwise detailed account, witness by witness, of its entire case. “Blockbuster interrogatories constitute an unduly burdensome request as a matter of law and are an abuse of the discovery process. Interrogatories should not require a party to provide a narrative account of his case.” Grynberg v. Total S.A., Inc., Civil Action No. 03-cv-01280-WYD-BNB, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28854 *18 (D. Colo. May 3, 2006).

     5. This request is overly broad and unduly burdensome because it attempts to require [Producing Party] to provide a narrative account of each potential witness’ anticipated testimony and to develop a narrative account of each and every potential defense, affirmative defense, and counterclaim [Producing Party] may assert in this action. “Each interrogatory should consist of a brief, simple, direct, and unambiguous question, dealing with one point only. The question should be objective and non-argumentative. They should not seek narrative answers or attempt to argue, cross-examine, or impeach.” Hilt v. SFC. Inc., 170 F.R.D. 182, 186-187 (D.Kan. 1997).

      Objecting to a discovery request on the grounds that it is overly broad presents both a challenge and an opportunity.  Carefully frame the issues, provide specific details and facts, and support your objection with the appropriate legal authority.  Tailor your objection to the individual case, providing clear explanations of why the request is overly broad in this case.  Effectively doing so demonstrates to the court that you are not making “boilerplate” objections, and provides you with an opportunity to prevail over counsel who abuse the discovery process.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

This was extremely helpful. Thank you!

Arthur Smith said...

Sometimes i think these kinds of objections tend to offend some miami court reporters because they've put so much effort in getting the info only to have it cut off in court.