A friend passed along this issue and asked us to write an entry on it since it is pretty common in lawsuits, but might be one of those issues that a person representing themselves pro se would not know.
Discovery is great and absolutely necessary to an effective lawsuit. We discuss this in more detail in our Guerrilla Guide to Written Discovery, but there is a trap out there that everyone should know about.
In most cases, the lawyer on the other side is going to want to make things as hard as possible on someone representing themselves. This is for a couple of reasons. First, they may make it so miserable on you that you drop the case. The second reason is even more compelling. They know the rules and you don't and they can force you into an error that makes you lose.
One of the ways this can be done is through objections to your discovery.
Th purpose of sending discovery, as we discuss in detail in our book, is to get as much information as you can about the case and about what the other side intends to do during trial. However, just sending discovery is not enough you also have to get answers to your discovery. In addition, you have to get answers that you can rely on.
On more than one occasion when I was practicing law I would send discovery out and, even though I had honed the discovery requests over the years, I would get back objections to what was obviously a valid request or question. This was particularly true when the other lawyer was working by the hour so the more objections they used, the more time it took and the more money they could bill. On one occasion I sent thirty interrogatories and received back more than sixty objections!
In addition to the lawyer being able to bill for that time, objections to discovery can serve the purpose of preventing you from getting information. You probably know that if you get sent discovery and don't object or answer then the court is likely not going to allow you to use that evidence at trial, or will substantially limit you somehow.
However, what you may not realize is that if the other side objects and you don't have a hearing on the matter (or they don't voluntarily withdraw the objection) then they are under no obligation to provide you the information requested.
The solution is to file a Motion to Compel and ask the judge to overrule the objections but before you file the motion you need to be sure that their objections aren't valid. Our book can help you to know that because it explains how to properly phrase your discovery requests.
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