Monday, March 28, 2016

What can Happen if you Refuse to Answer Discovery in your Case

Discovery.  Most people hate it.

If you are a party to a divorce, or any other type of adversarial lawsuit (child support, modification, probate contest, contract suit, neighbor dispute, suit for money or property, and many other types of case) you may be served what is called "discovery".

The term "discovery" can include a deposition or subpoenas to bring documents or things.  It also includes the more commonly used types of discovery which are written questions, requests for documents, and requests for other types of information that is relevant to the lawsuit.

Some people decide that they will simply refuse to answer the discovery because they don't know the answers, have decided that it is too difficult to understand or they believe the information is no one else's business.

Unfortunately, if you are a party to a lawsuit, you must comply or face possible consequences.

Some of the consequences of refusing to answer are:

  1. Losing something that you want because the information to support it is simply not there (Example: You want temporary support from your ex-spouse in a divorce case but don't provide enough evidence to show that your expenses warrant what you say you need.)
  2. Your pleadings are "stricken".   (Example: You file a lawsuit against your neighbor for trespassing and also for causing water damage to your property. You refuse to answer discovery out of anger even after ordered to do so.  The judge then orders that your pleadings about the damages be "stricken". There goes your chance to recover financial compensation.)
  3. Paying the attorney fees of the other party for having to force you to answer.   (Example: In a case against your former business partner, you answer discovery in a very sloppy and half-hearted manner, saying "he can get the information himself if he wants it."  In a court hearing, your ex-partner's attorney asks the judge to order you to answer the questions properly and to pay her attorney fees of $500 for all the time and trouble she took to force you to answer the requests. The judge grants her motion and you have to pay). 
  4. Looking really bad in front of the court.  Judges work hard and want to move cases efficiently through their courts. They are generally not happy when they have to take time from their busy schedules to order litigants to follow rules that they should have followed in the first place.   And a bad attitude does not gain any sympathy. 
  5. Paying more fees to your own attorney.  It takes less time and money to just answer the questions in the first place that it does to procrastinate.  If you do procrastinate or refuse, then your legal dollars will be spent on your attorney and legal staff repeatedly contacting you to request your information, arguing with the other side and trying to keep you from facing any of the consequences listed in numbers 1 through 4, above, rather than working on other aspects of your case. 
Yes, it can feel confusing and overwhelming when you read it. But, ask for help, don't ignore it!

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