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If you are in the middle of a court battle, you are probably dealing with the time intensive and invasive discovery process.  Here is a word of warning; FAILURE TO ANSWER DISCOVERY COULD COST YOU YOUR CASE.

Discovery is the process of obtaining information that will help to present your case and your opponents case at trial.  It is a natural and compulsory part of litigation.   This includes all types of litigation such as, divorce, paternity, breach of contract and real estate disputes.  Essentially, if you have a lawsuit pending, you can count on discovery.

In Missouri discovery can come in many forms.  The most common are Interrogatories, Request for Production of Documents, Depositions and Requests for Admission.

Interrogatories:  a written question that is formally put to one party in a case by another party and that must be answered.  In other words, it is list of written questions that must be answered.

Request for Production of Documents:  It is a written request for items to be produced such as documents, whether paper or electronic.  This can include any variety of items and is not limited to documents. 

Deposition:  a formal interview which is taken down word for word by a Court reporter wherein a myriad of questions are asked relating to the litigation.

Request for Admission:  a written statement that must be admitted or denied.

Discovery is a tedious process, both propounding discovery and answering discovery.  You and your lawyer will spend many hours on the process.  You will likely be asked to provide a long list of answers and fetch a lot of documents.   Your lawyer will be required to type up the answers, put everything in proper form and send off the answers.

There is a hard thirty-day deadline for answering discovery.

Failure to answer on time can have catastrophic affect on the case.

Pursuant to Missouri Rules answers to discovery must be made in 30 days.  If answer is not made in that time, the party who issued discovery can request the court to enter sanctions against the non-answering party.

Sanctions: Official penalty/punishment.  Sanctions can include any “just” penalty including dismissing the case, striking pleadings and ordering payment of attorney fees. 

Striking Pleadings:  When a case is brought the person being sued must Answer a complaint against them by filing a document with the Court that states what allegations in the complaint they will admit and what they deny.  Without this “Answer” the court will enter a judgment against the person being sued.  This is called a default judgment.    When the court “strikes” pleadings, the Court essentially erases the “Answer” and the result is the same as being in default.  A judgment could be entered against you and any defenses you may have had disappear. 

Dismissal of a case or Striking Pleadings is a drastic remedy.  The court is not likely to do this for a simple late discovery response.  However, it is on the table.  This is not a risk you want to take.

Generally, if the discovery answer is late for a good reason, the Court will allow a little more time to answer.  However, this is only a partial solution.  This is because often the discovery requests will include requests for things that the other party is not entitled to under the law.  If you do not want to answer a question or provide a document because the other party is not entitled to it, then you must “object” to the request.  Missouri Law requires that people make their objections in a timely manner.  Failure make a timely objection could result in “waiving” the objections.  In other words, you could sacrifice your right to make an objection if you don’t answer on time. Importantly, you could waive your objections even if the court allows you additional time to answer discovery.    What does that mean?  It means, for example:  if you are in the middle of a breach of contract suit and the other party wants you grandmother’s bank accounts transactions for the last year – failure to object on time could mean you would have to provide them and if you refuse,  the court could strike your pleadings.  Game over.  You lose.

SUMMARY:  Failure to timely answer discovery or refusal to answer discovery has two important and potentially catastrophic consequences.

  1. You may waive your right to object to the discovery even if the other party has no right to the information requested.  In other words, you may be forced to give it to them.
  2. The Court could enter sanctions against you.

MMPE Law can help.  Call our offices at (573)996-3814 or email us at info@mmpelaw.com.