Sadly, it is not uncommon for litigants to abuse the discovery system in a civil lawsuit. Sometimes it is an attempt to make an opponent’s legal fees too high to continue litigation. Other times, a party might be trying to drag out a lawsuit and force the opponent to settle rather than continue indefinitely. These tactics are especially common when a business knows that a competing business is undercapitalized and cannot afford litigation that is costly or lengthy. But business owners do not have to succumb to these tactics. Learn more about what an experienced litigator can do to protect your business throughout the discovery process.
What RFAs Do – And What It Costs to Prove Them
Requests for Admission (RFAs) are a specific type of discovery tool that can be very effective when used properly. An attorney submits RFAs to the opposing party. These are formed as questions that the answering party must either: 1) admit, 2) deny, 3) admit in part, 4) deny in part, or 5) explain why it is unable to answer. It is also possible to object to the request entirely, but courts do not take kindly to gamesmanship in the discovery process. If the answering party fails to answer these questions, it is considered an admission that they are true. It might not come as a surprise to learn that parties sometimes lie on these questionnaires. When this happens, the asking party or “Propounding Party” has an opportunity to prove that the question should have been admitted as true. This can be done in many ways. Your attorney might, for example, hire a forensic investigator to review the other party’s financial statements. You might find a former employee who can testify that the statement should have been admitted as true. Your attorney might even hire a private investigator to uncover evidence of the truth. However done, it almost always costs the Propounding Party money to prove that the RFA should have been admitted in the first place.
Do Courts EVER Award Cost of Proof Sanctions for Failure to Admit or Deny an Admission?
Discovery sanctions are not automatic in the civil litigation arena, but they do happen. The more blatant an opponent’s lies or gamesmanship, the more likely that a court will sanction them for their misconduct. In order to obtain a financial award for this misconduct, your attorney must be prepared to show the exact amount – in detail – that it cost you to prove the RFA. This includes investigators, expert witness fees, and the added attorney’s fees for the extra time your attorney spent on the matter. If your attorney has a clear, itemized statement of the specific costs that were reasonably incurred to prove the RFA, it is possible to get a Cost of Proof sanction for your financial losses. But keep in mind that sanctions do not always translate to financial awards, even when they do, they are not always recoverable. The court could also enter an evidentiary ruling against the offending party – limiting, or entirely excluding, certain evidence at trial, or both. In some circumstances, this is the “make or break” moment for your case and exclusion of evidence might far exceed the value of a monetary Cost of Proof Sanctions.
Experienced California Business Lawyers to Enforce Your Discovery Rights
The experienced business litigators at Structure Law Group know how to protect business owners from misconduct and abuse of the discovery process. Contact Structure Law Group at (408) 441-7500 or contact us online. The sooner you have an experienced litigator handling your case, the better protected your legal rights – and those of your business – will be.