Requests for Production
These are written orders that may be directed only to persons who are parties to a lawsuit. A request for production describes certain documents or classes of documents and requests that the party either provide copies or produce the document at a convenient time for inspection by the requesting attorney. These requests can be quite onerous. In business litigation, opposing counsel might request all of a company’s business records for the last 10 years. In medical litigation involving allegations of systematic fraud, the physician may be required to produce the records of all patients treated during the period.
Motions for production are also used by defense attorneys to evaluate the plaintiff’s case. These defense motions may inquire into past tax returns, employment records, divorce decrees and settlements, and any other documents that may illuminate the value of the plaintiff’s case. Motions for production can be a valuable way to develop evidence, or they may be used to harass and financially exhaust an opponent. Since they may be sent only to a party in a lawsuit, that party’s attorney will review and contest unreasonable requests.
Once the items to be produced have been agreed upon, it is critical to comply fully with the request. Under no circumstances should records be destroyed after they have been requested. This can result in monetary fines. In extreme cases, when it is clear that the party intended to obstruct justice through the destruction of the documents, the judge may order that the opposing party wins the case.