Although the rule number controlling Requests for Production will vary according to the jurisdiction all states and the federal system allow for their use, although some small claims courts do not allow for any discovery.
Requests for Production are the discovery method used to obtain documents, photographs, or other tangible evidence as well as the method used to obtain signatures on release forms (such as would be used to obtain medical records and income tax forms). Requests for Production can also be used to obtain permission to inspect items or property.
The key to Requests for Production is that they must be specific. Most courts will sustain objections to general Requests for Production, so the real art in using them is to be as specific as possible.
Requests for Production are normally used by both sides in a case and a failure to produce an item in response to a request for production can result in sanctions, including the court ordering the non-producing party to pay attorney's fees, striking the use of the item as evidence in a trial, or even, in a severe case, the striking of that party's pleadings which essentially means they lose the case automatically.
When a party is served with Requests for Production they are faced with two possibilities:
- Timely respond and produce the items requested;
- Timely respond and explain why the item can't be produced; or
- Timely file objections.
Notice the word "timely". Usually a party has thirty days to respond or object and a failure to do so can lead to sanctions or even the waiver of the objections, valid or not.
If a party chooses to object then the burden switches to the party who sent the Requests for Production to get a ruling from the judge on the objections.
Requests for Production are covered in detail in our book, The Guerrilla Guide to Written Discovery available in instantly downloadable formats.