Wednesday, January 5, 2011

No Motion to Compel Will Be Granted Unless Rules Are Followed

Rahofy v. Steadman, 2010 UT App 350 (Utah Court of Appeals December 9, 2010).

Steadman had sent letters to Rahofy requesting that she sign release forms for medical and employment information unrelated to her cause of action.  She refused.  The trial court granted a motion to compel forcing Rahofy to sign the releases.  Rahofy appealed.

The Court of Appeals found that the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure allow the parties to seek discovery informally a party cannot be compelled to respond to an informal discovery request.  A party may send a request for production of documents under Utah Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 34(a)(1), however if the documents are not in their possession, they cannot be forced to produce documents that they do not have.  Additionally, formal requests can be objected to, letters cannot.  In short, there was no formal request for the signed releases, and thus no opportunity to formally object to such a request.

It may be that Steadman was entitled to the documents he was seeking.  However, such an entitlement must be established by proper procedure and not by informal requests.  Additionally, Defendant did not even attempt to obtain the records through a subpoena, which is a proper method to obtain documents in the possession of a third party.  Because Defendant did not follow the rules of civil procedure in obtaining the discovery, the Order granting the Motion to Compel is Reversed and Remanded.

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