Legal Memorandum: Objections to Discovery Requests

Issue: When will objections to ‘unduly burdensome’ or ‘irrelevant’ discovery requests be sustained?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Discovery requests; Objections; Unduly burdensome or irrelevant
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 677 F.2d 985
Cited Statutes: Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)
Date: 08/01/2001

Objections to discovery requests on the grounds that they are “unduly burdensome” or “irrelevant” are based on Rule 26(b), which requires disclosure of “discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party . . . [that] appears reasonably calculated to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1).

It is established by the plain language of the Rule that when either of these objections is asserted, the party making the objection must also state why the question is overly broad or unduly burdensome.  Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2).  Federal case law supports the principle that the burden is on the objecting party to establish undue burden or lack of relevancy.  St. Paul Reinsurance Co. v. Commercial Fin. Corp., 198 F.R.D. 508, 511 (N.D. Iowa 2000).  And the objecting party’s burden is not inconsequential.  The objecting party must make and prove its objection by demonstrating to the court that the documents requested are outside “the broad scope of relevance” in Rule 26(b)(1), or that they are of such marginal relevance that the potential harm caused by disclosure would outweigh the usual presumption favoring “broad disclosure.”  Id. at 511 (quoting Burke v. N.Y. City Police Dep’t, 115 F.R.D. 220, 224 (S.D.N.Y. 1987)).

Merely stating that a particular document request or interrogatory is overly broad, unduly burdensome, oppressive or irrelevant is simply inadequate to constitute “a successful objection.”  Id. (quoting Josephs v. Harris Corp., 677 F.2d 985, 992 (3d […]

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