Maryland Circuit Court Discovery - 5. Answers and Objections

Answering Discovery

Under the Maryland Rules, you must provide the opposing party with your answers within either thirty days after service of the request or fifteen days after the date on which the party’s initial pleading or motion is required, whichever is later. NOTE: If you fail to answer Requests for Admission within the appropriate period, the requests are deemed admitted, which may have a harmful effect on your case. If you require additional time, seek an extension from the opposing counsel/party as soon as possible. Once you obtain your opponent’s consent, file a “Consent Motion to Modify the Scheduling Order” with the Court, including with your Motion a “proposed Order” with the new due date.

The most important thing to remember when answering discovery is to tell the truth. If you do not, you risk sanctions from the court, including the possibility of costs (i.e., a fine) or dismissal of your case.

Objections to Discovery Requests

When answering discovery, review the discovery material carefully for any objectionable requests. Under the Rules, a party has the right to obtain discovery on any non-privileged matter that is relevant to the subject matter of the action.  See Maryland Rule 2-402. Do your best to answer each question. If you really feel that a request is objectionable, you can object for one or more of the following reasons:

Overly Vague and/or Broad – This objection is reserved for discovery requests that are very difficult to comprehend, leave material (meaning important and relevant) terms undefined, or request information that is not limited to the timeframe of the relevant events.

Unduly Burdensome – This objection is reserved for those discovery requests that seek information and/or documents that would be very time-consuming and/or cost prohibitive to locate or produce. If a request is truly cost prohibitive, consider seeking a protective order under Maryland Rule 2-403.

Irrelevant/Not Reasonably Calculated to Lead to the Discovery of Admissible Evidence – This objection is reserved for those discovery requests that are completely unrelated to the subject matter of the litigation. If the information sought is in any way related to the issues presented by the case, do your best to answer the request.

Work Product Doctrine – This objection covers material that was prepared in anticipation of litigation or for trial (for example, your notes that document your analysis or valuation of the case; an outline of your cross-examination of the opposing party) and should be used sparingly. Again, this doctrine does not apply to any documents and/or information shared with an expert witness whom you intend to have testify at trial. NOTE: The party seeking the information can obtain discovery of work product materials if she can show that she has a substantial need for the information and that she cannot obtain the materials without undue hardship.

See Maryland Rule 2-402; Discovery Guideline No. 5 NOTE: When answering interrogatories, if you object to one part of an interrogatory, you cannot refuse to answer the entire interrogatory if the rest of the interrogatory is not objectionable.

You will have to answer the interrogatory or request once the opposing party clarifies or amends the objectionable part of the request. Also, keep in mind that the opposing party can file a motion to compel, asking the Court to require you to answer requests to which you have objected. If the Court does not agree with your objection, it can order you to respond.

Filing and Serving Discovery

When you are ready to serve the opposing party with discovery requests or discovery responses, you will also include a document called “Notice of Service of Discovery Material.” The “Notice” will state the type of discovery material served, the date and manner of service, and the party or person served. See Maryland Rule 2-401(d)(2) You should always keep the original of the discovery request and send a copy to your opponent. If you are producing documents in response to requests by your opponent, you should keep the original documents and send your opponent a copy. Keep all originals stored in a safe location until litigation is over. If there are multiple parties involved, make sure to send copies of the discovery materials and Notice of Service of Discovery Materials to every party.

Unlike the pleadings and motions, discovery is not filed with the Court. That means when you send requests for production of documents or interrogatories to the opposing party, you do not file the requests and interrogatories with the Court. When you send responses to requests for production of documents or answers to interrogatories to opposing party, you also do not file those documents with the Court. Instead, you will only file with the Court the “Notice of Service of Discovery Material” that you sent to the opposing party.

Duty to Supplement Responses

In most cases, you issue discovery and you receive discovery requests in the early stages of litigation. As a result, you may not know all the answers to your opponent’s questions, and you may not have all the documents necessary for answering the requests. You must still respond to your opponent’s discovery requests within the time requirements. If you later receive additional information that changes your prior answers, you must “supplement” your prior response “promptly.” See Maryland Rule 2-401(e) As a practical matter, parties generally supplement their discovery before the discovery deadline. That way, if the other party has questions about the newly-disclosed information, she will have time to ask questions about the new information. The opposing party does not have to ask you to supplement; you are under a continuing duty to do so. If you do not supplement material information promptly, the court may later preclude the information at trial, meaning you will not be permitted to use it as evidence.

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