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Legal Memorandum: Grounds for Refusal of a Discovery

Issue: Is it grounds to refuse discovery if a party is seeking information to bolster its own claims?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Refusal of a discovery; Information to bolster own claim; Relevance as per Rule 26
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 133 F.3d 17
Cited Statutes: Fed. R. Civ. P. 26
Date: 05/01/2005

The fact that a party seeks information to assist in fleshing out its claims should not prevent compliance.  In Linder v. Dep’t of Defense, 133 F.3d 17 (D.C. Cir. 1998), the court of appeals reversed the district court’s decision to limit the scope of subpoenas served on the federal Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation, reasoning, inter alia, that the plaintiff sought more than direct evidence of the government’s involvement in his decedent’s attack and death in Nicaragua.  133 F.3d at 24.  It sought “general information about the organizations’ policies and practices toward civilians, foreigners, prisoners of war, and the wounded. . . .  [S]uch information may very well provide the ‘building blocks’ [the plaintiff] needs to prove its case.”  Id. (emphasis added).  The lower court thus erred by failing to assess the relevance of the requested information to all the plaintiff’s theories.  As long as such information satisfies the definition of relevance in Rule 26, continued the court of appeals, the district court should order compliance unless “the [defendants] satisfy their heavy burden of proving oppressiveness or establish some other recognized ground for modifying or quashing subpoenas for relevant information.”  Id.  See also Breeze v. Royal Indem. Co., 202 F.R.D. 435, 436 (E.D. Pa. 2001) (denying motion to quash and finding the defendants’ request for the plaintiff’s husband’s employment records, in order to discover whether and how his employment situation might have affected the plaintiff’s mental condition, was relevant to defending against the plaintiff’s claim for emotional stress damages […]

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