What Constitutes “Frivolous” Discovery Objections by a Defendant?
Objecting to plaintiff electronic discovery requests is not uncommon, but when is an objection frivolous or done in bad faith? For an example of this, see Chapman v. Hiland Operating, LLC, Case No. 1:13-cv-052(D. North Dakota April 16, 2014). In their response to plaintiff eDiscovery requests, Defendants included both “General Objections” as well as objections to the specific document requests. The general objections were that the requests were overly broad, vague, ambiguous, sought irrelevant information and was not reasonably calculated to the discovery of admissible evidence.
In response, Plaintiff offered a request where Defendant failed to comply:
1. Plaintiff sought federal and state tax returns of the business.
Plaintiff argued this request was to determine which business entity was liable if it prevailed in the lawsuit. The court noted that this could be done by stipulation, but if the parties could not enter a stipulation, then the documents were to be produced to the court for an in camera review.
2. Plaintiff sought video surveillance held by Defendant where Plaintiff’s images were captured.
Defendant claimed no such surveillance footage existed, and they had no responsive documents or data. The court agreed Defendant complied with this request.
3. Plaintiff sought the Defendant company directory
The court agreed with Plaintiff that “No attorney acting in good faith could conclude this request was vague or ambiguous,” and the general objection to this request was specious. Although Defendant had voluntarily withdrawn its “General Objections” before this hearing, it appeared to be too late. The court believed the General Objections were improper
The court ordered Defendant to prepare all new discovery responses, eliminate any General Objections, and clearly specify for each request whether it would be complied with, not complied with, or partially complied with. Finally, the court ordered the expense of re-doing the responses to be borne by the defense counsel law firm, and that the law firm could not charge back such expense to its client.