North Dakota Discovery Law

Evidence – Discovery – North Dakota

Note: This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive summary of discovery law in North Dakota, but does include basic and other information.

Definitions

Discovery: A procedure designed to allow disclosure of information between Plaintiffs and Defendants.Written questions,oral questioning,document production and admissions requests are generallyallowed. Discovery was designed to to prevent trial by ambush.

Interrogatories: Written questions from Plaintiff to Defendant,or from Defendant to Plaintiff.The questions are mailed to the Plaintiff, Defendant or the attorney for response in writing. The answers or responses are usually due between 20-30 days.

Deposition: A procedure where verbal questions are asked a Plaintiff or Defendant for immediate response. Depositions are usually recorded by a court reporter, who swears the person to tell the truth before questioning begins.

Production of Documents: The method of obtaining documents from the other party relevant to the case such as all documents a party intends to introduce at trial.

Requests for Admissions: Written questions where you request the other party to admit or deny some relevant fact.

Objections: Objections may be made to all discovery questions if the questions are not relevant, or likely to lead to the discovery of relevant evidence.

Civil Procedure Rules: Virtually all states have adopted a version of civil procedure rules which include rules dealing with discovery.

North Dakota Rules of Civil Procedure

North Dakota has adopted the North Dakota Rules of Civil Procedure which contain rules governing discovery.The discovery rules also apply in divorce actions.

Discovery Methods: Parties may obtain discovery by one or more of the following methods: depositions upon oral examination or written questions; written interrogatories; production of documents or things or permission to enter upon land or other property, for inspection and other purposes; physical and mental examinations; and requests for admission. Rule 26(a)

Scope: Unless otherwise limited by order of the court in accordance with these rules, the scope of discovery is as follows:

(1) In General. Parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action, whether it relates to the claim or defense of the party seeking discovery or to the claim or defense of any other party, including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any books, documents, or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons having knowledge of any discoverable matter. It is not ground for objection that the information sought will be inadmissible at the trial if the information sought appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

The frequency or extent of use of the discovery methods set forth in subdivision (a) must be limited by the court if it determines that: (i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or is obtainable from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity by discovery in the action to obtain the information sought; or (iii) the discovery is unduly burdensome or expensive, taking into account the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, limitations on the parties’ resources, and the importance of the issues at stake in the litigation. The court may act upon its own initiative after reasonable notice or pursuant to a motion under subdivision (c).Rule 26(b)

Experts: Discovery of facts known and opinions held by experts, otherwise discoverable under the provisions of subdivision (b)(1) of this rule and acquired or developed in anticipation of litigation or for trial, may be obtained only as follows:

(A)

(i) A party may through interrogatories require any other party to identify each person whom the other party expects to call as an expert witness at trial, to state the subject matter on which the expert is expected to testify, and to state the substance of the facts and opinions to which the expert is expected to testify and a summary of the grounds for each opinion.

(ii) A party may depose each person whom the other party expects to call as an expert witness at trial unless,upon motion,the court finds that the deposition is unnecessary,overly burdensome,or unfairly oppressive.

(B) A party may discover facts known or opinions held by an expert who has been retained or specially employed by another party in anticipation of litigation or preparation for trial and who is not expected to be called as a witness at trial, only as provided in Rule 35(b) or upon a showing of exceptional circumstances under which it is impracticable for the party seeking discovery to obtain facts or opinions on the same subject by other means.

(C) Unless manifest injustice would result, (i) the court shall require that the party seeking discovery pay the expert a reasonable fee for time spent in responding to discovery under subdivisions (b)(4)(A)(ii) and (b)(4)(B) of this rule; and (ii) with respect to discovery obtained under subdivision (b)(4)(A)(ii) of this rule the court may require, and with respect to discovery obtained under subdivision (b)(4)(B) of this rule the court shall require, the party seeking discovery to pay the other party a fair portion of the fees and expenses reasonably incurred by the latter party in obtaining facts and opinions from the expert. Rule 26(b)(4)

Sequence and Timing of Discovery:Unless the court upon motion, for the convenience of parties and witnesses and in the interests of justice,orders otherwise,methods of discovery may be used in any sequence and the fact that a party is conducting discovery, whether by deposition or otherwise,shall not operate to delay any other party’s discovery. Rule 26(d)

Supplementation of Responses: A party who has responded to a request for discovery with a response that was complete when made is under no duty to supplement the response to include information thereafter acquired,except as follows:

(1) A party is under a duty seasonably to supplement the response with respect to any question directly addressed to (A) the identity and location of persons having knowledge of discoverable matters, and (B) the identity of each person expected to be called as an expert witness at trial,the subject matter on which the expert witness is expected to testify, and the substance of the witness’s testimony.

(2) A party is under a duty seasonably to amend a prior response if the party obtains information upon the basis of which the party (A) knows that the response was incorrect when made, or (B) knows that the response,though correct when made, is no longer true and the circumstances are such that a failure to amend the response is in substance a knowing concealment.

(3) A duty to supplement responses may be imposed by order of the court, agreement of the parties, or at any time prior to trial through new requests for supplementation of prior responses. Rule 26(e)

Discovery Conference: At any time after an action has been filed, the court may direct the attorneys for the parties to appear before it for a conference on the subject of discovery. The court shall do so upon motion by the attorney for any party if the motion includes:

(1) A statement of the issues as they then appear;

(2) A proposed plan and schedule of discovery;

(3) Any limitations proposed to be placed on discovery;

(4) Any other proposed orders with respect to discovery; and

(5) A statement showing that the attorney making the motion has made a reasonable effort to reach agreement with opposing attorneys on the matters set forth in the motion. Each party and each party’s attorney are under a duty to participate in good faith in the framing of a discovery plan if a plan is proposed by the attorney for any party. Notice of the motion must be served on all parties. Objections or additions to matters set forth in the motion must be served not later than 10 days after service of the motion.

Following the discovery conference, the court shall enter an order tentatively identifying the issues for discovery purposes, establishing a plan and schedule for discovery, setting limitations on discovery, if any, and determining such other matters, including the allocation of expenses, as are necessary for the proper management of discovery in the action. An order may be altered or amended whenever justice so requires.

Subject to the right of a party who properly moves for a discovery conference to a prompt convening of the conference, the court may combine the discovery conference with a pretrial conference authorized by Rule 16. Rule 26(f)

Depositions

Before Whom Depositions May Be Taken: Within the United States or within a territory or insular possession subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, depositions must be taken before an officer authorized to administer oaths by the laws of this state or of the United States or of the place where the examination is held, or before a person appointed by the court in which the action is pending. A person so appointed has power to administer oaths and take testimony. Depositions may also be taken before a person commissioned by the court or under a letter of request under subdivisions (b) and (c). The term officer as used in Rules 30, 31, and 32 includes a person appointed by the court or designated by the parties under Rule 29. Rule 28(a)

Depositions may be taken in a foreign country (1) under a treaty or convention, or (2) under a letter of request (whether or not captioned a letter rogatory), or (3) on notice before a person authorized to administer oaths in the place where the examination is held, either by the law thereof or by the law of the United States, or (4) before a person commissioned by the court, and a person so commissioned has the power by virtue of the commission to administer any necessary oath and take testimony. Rule 28(b)

Stipulations: Unless otherwise directed by the court, the parties may by written stipulation:

(1) provide that depositions may be taken before any person, at any time or place, upon any notice, and in any manner and when so taken may be used like other depositions, and

(2) modify other procedures governing or limitations placed upon discovery unless they would interfere with any time set for hearing of a motion or for trial. Rule 29

After commencement of the action, any party may take the testimony of any person, including a party, by deposition upon oral examination. Leave of court, granted with or without notice, must be obtained only if the plaintiff seeks to take a deposition prior to the expiration of 30 days after service of the summons and complaint upon any defendant or service made under Rule 4(e), but leave is not required

(1) if a defendant has served a notice of taking depositions or otherwise sought discovery, or

(2) if special notice is given as provided in subdivision (b)(2).

The attendance of witnesses may be compelled by subpoena as provided in Rule 45. The deposition of a person confined in prison may be taken only by leave of court on such terms as the court prescribes. Rule 30(a)

(1) A party desiring to take the deposition of any person upon oral examination shall give reasonable notice in writing to every other party to the action. The notice must state the time and place for taking the deposition and the name and address of each person to be examined, if known, and, if the name is not known, a general description sufficient to identify the person or the particular class or group to which the person belongs. If a subpoena duces tecum is to be served on the person to be examined, the description of the material to be produced as set forth in the subpoena must be attached to or included in the notice.

(2) Leave of court is not required for the taking of a deposition by plaintiff if the notice:

(A) states that the person to be examined is about to go out of this State and will be unavailable for examination unless the deposition is taken before expiration of the 30-day period, and

(B) sets forth facts to support the statement.

The plaintiff’s attorney shall sign the notice. The attorney’s signature constitutes a certification that to the best of the attorney’s knowledge, information, and belief the statement and supporting facts are true. The sanctions provided by Rule 11 apply to the certification.

If a party shows that when the party was served with notice under this subdivision (b)(2) the party was unable through the exercise of diligence to obtain counsel to represent the party at the taking of the deposition, the depositions may not be used against the party.

(3) The court for cause shown may enlarge or shorten the time for taking the deposition. The court may regulate at its discretion the time and order of taking depositions as will best serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses and the interests of justice.

(4) The court upon motion may order that the testimony at a deposition be recorded by other than stenographic or audio-visual means, in which event the order must designate the manner of recording, preserving, and filing the deposition, and may include other provisions to assure that the recorded testimony will be accurate and trustworthy. If the order is made, a party may nevertheless arrange to have a stenographic transcription made at the party’s own expense. Any objections under subdivision (c), any changes made by the witness, the witness’ signature identifying the depositions as the witness’ own or the statement of the officer that is required if the witness does not sign, as provided in subdivision (e), and the certification of the officer required by subdivision (f) must be set forth in writing to accompany a deposition recorded by non-stenographic means.

(5) The notice to a party deponent may be accompanied by a request made in compliance with Rule 34 for the production of documents and tangible things at the taking of the deposition. The procedure of Rule 34 applies to the request.

(6) In the party’s notice and in a subpoena, a party may name as the deponent a public or private corporation or a partnership or association or governmental agency and describe with reasonable particularity the matters on which examination is requested. In that event, the organization so named must designate one or more officers, directors, or managing agents, or other persons who consent to testify on its behalf, and may set forth, for each person designated, the matters on which the person will testify. A subpoena must advise a nonparty organization of its duty to make such a designation. A person so designated shall testify as to matters known or reasonably available to the organization. This subdivision does not preclude taking a deposition by any other procedure authorized in these rules.

(7) The parties may stipulate in writing or the court upon motion may order that a deposition be taken by telephone. For the purposes of this rule and Rules 28(a), 37(a)(1), 37(b)(1) and 45(d), a deposition taken by telephone is taken in the district and at the place where the deponent is to answer propounded questions. Rule 30(b)

Authorization of Audio-Visual Deposition:(1) Any deposition upon oral examination may be recorded by audio-visual means without a stenographic record. Any party may make at his own expense a simultaneous stenographic or audio record of the deposition. Upon his request and at his own expense, any party is entitled to an audio or audio-visual copy of the audio-visual recording.

(2) The audio-visual recording is an official record of the deposition. A transcript prepared in accordance with Rule 30(c) is also an official record of the deposition.

(3) On motion the court, for good cause, may order the party taking, or who took, a deposition by audio-visual recording to furnish, at his expense, a transcript of the deposition.

Use. An audio-visual deposition may be used for any purpose and under any circumstances in which a stenographic deposition may be used.

Notice. The notice for taking an audio-visual deposition and the subpoena for attendance at that deposition must state that the deposition will be recorded by audio-visual means.

Procedure. The following procedure must be observed in recording an audio-visual deposition:

(1) Opening of Deposition. The deposition must begin with an oral or written statement on camera which includes:

(A) the operator’s name and business address;

(B) the name and business address of the operator’s employer;

(C) the date, time, and place of the deposition;

(D) the caption of the case;

(E) the name of the witness;

(F) the party on whose behalf the deposition is being taken; and

(G) any stipulations by the parties.

(2) Counsel. Counsel shall identify themselves on camera.

(3) Oath. The oath must be administered to the witness on camera.

(4) Multiple Units. If the length of a deposition requires the use of more than one recording unit, the end of each unit and the beginning of each succeeding unit must be announced on camera.

(5) Closing of Deposition. At the conclusion of a deposition, a statement must be made on camera that the deposition is concluded. A statement may be made on camera setting forth any stipulations made by counsel concerning the custody of the audio-visual recording and exhibits or other pertinent matters.

(6) Index. Depositions must be indexed by a time generator or other method specified by the Supreme Court.

(7) Objections. An objection must be made as in the case of stenographic depositions.

(8) Editing. If the court issues an editing order, the original audio-visual recording may not be altered.

(9) Delivery. Unless otherwise stipulated by the parties, the operator shall deliver, mail, or ship to the party noticing the audio-visual deposition the original audio-visual recording of a deposition, any copy edited pursuant to an order of the court, and any exhibits. If mailed or shipped, the deposition, and any exhibits, must be sent via registered or certified mail or a traceable third-party commercial delivery service.

Costs. The reasonable expense of recording, editing, and using an audio-visual deposition may be taxed as costs. Rule 30.1

Interrogatories

Any party may serve upon any other party written interrogatories to be answered by the party served or, if the party served is a public or private corporation or a partnership or association or governmental agency, by any officer or agent, who shall furnish such information as is available to the party. Interrogatories, without leave of court, may be served upon the plaintiff after commencement of the action and upon any other party with or after service of summons and complaint upon that party. Rule 33(a)

(1) Each interrogatory must be answered separately and fully in writing under oath, unless it is objected to, in which event the objecting party shall state the reasons for objection and shall answer to the extent theinterrogatory is not objectionable.

(2) The answers are to be signed by the person making them, and the objections signed by the attorney making them.

(3) The party upon whom the interrogatories have been served shall serve a copy of the answers, and objections if any, within 30 days after the service of the interrogatories, but a defendant may serve answers or objections within 45 days after service of the summons and complaint upon that defendant. A shorter or longer time may be directed by the court or, in theabsence of such an order, agreed to in writing by theparties subject to Rule 29.

(4) A party shall restate the interrogatory being answered immediately preceding the answer to that interrogatory.

(5) All grounds for an objection to an interrogatory must be stated with specificity. Any ground not stated in a timely objection is waived unless the party’s failure to object is excused by the court for good cause shown.

(6) The party submitting the interrogatories may move for an order under Rule 37(a) with respect to any objection to or other failure to answer an interrogatory.

(7) A party is not required to answer an interrogatory that is repetitive of any interrogatory it has already answered. A party who has been served with a response to an interrogatory submitted by another party is to be regarded as having served the interrogatory. Rule 33(b)

Production

Any party may serve on any other party a request (1) to produce and permit the party making the request, or someone acting on the requestor’s behalf, to inspect and copy any designated documents (including writings, drawings, graphs, charts, photographs, phono-records, and other data compilations from which information can be obtained, translated, if necessary, by the respondent through detection devices into reasonably usable form), or to inspect and copy, test, or sample any tangible things that constitute or contain matters within the scope of Rule 26(b) and which are in the possession, custody or control of the party upon whom the request is served; or

(2) to permit entry upon designated land or other property in the possession or control of the party upon whom the request is served for the purpose of inspection and measuring, surveying, photographing, testing, or sampling the property or any designated object or operation thereon, within the scope of Rule 26(b). Rule 34(a)

The request, without leave of court, may be served upon the plaintiff after commencement of the action and upon any other party with or after service of the summons and complaint upon that party. The request must set forth, either by individual item or by category, the items to be inspected and describe each with reasonable particularity. The request must specify a reasonable time, place, and manner of making the inspection and performing the related acts.

The party upon whom the request is served shall serve a written response within 30 days after the service of the request, but a defendant may serve a response within 45 days after service of the summons and complaint upon that defendant. A shorter or longer time may be directed by the court or, in the absence of such an order, agreed to in writing by the parties, subject to Rule 29. The response must state, with respect to each item or category, that inspection and related activities will be permitted as requested, unless the request is objected to, in which event the reasons for objection must be stated. If objection is made to part of an item or category, the part must be specified and inspection permitted to the remaining parts. The party submitting the request may move for an order under Rule 37(a) with respect to any objection to or other failure to respond to the request or any part thereof, or any failure to permit inspection as requested. A party who produces documents for inspection shall produce them as they are kept in the usual course of business or shall organize and label them to correspond with the categories in the request. Rule 34(b)

Physical and Mental Examinations of Persons

If the mental or physical condition (including the blood group) of a party, or a person in the custody or under the legal control of a party, is in controversy, the court in which the action is pending may order the party to submit to a physical or mental examination by a suitably licensed or certified examiner or to produce for examination the person in the party’s custody or legal control. The order may be made only on motion for good cause shown and upon notice to the person to be examined and to all parties and must specify the time, place, manner, conditions, and scope of the examination and the person or persons by whom it is to be made. Rule 35(a)

(1) If requested by the party against whom an order is made under Rule 35(a) or the person examined, the party causing the examination to be made shall deliver to the requestor a copy of a detailed written report of the examiner setting out the examiner’s findings, including results of all tests made, diagnoses and conclusions, together with like reports of all earlier examinations of the same condition. After delivery the party causing the examination is entitled upon request to receive from the party against whom the order is made a like report of any examination, previously or thereafter made, of the same condition, unless, in the case of a report of examination of a person not a party, the party shows inability to obtain it. The court on motion may make an order against a party requiring delivery of a report on such terms as are just, and if an examiner fails or refuses to make a report the court may exclude the examiner’s testimony if offered at the trial.

(2) By requesting and obtaining a report of the examination so ordered or by taking the deposition of the examiner, the party examined waives any privilege the party may have in that action or any other involving the same controversy, regarding the testimony of every other person who has examined or may thereafter examine him in respect of the same mental or physical condition.

(3) This subdivision applies to examinations made by agreement of the parties, unless the agreement expressly provides otherwise. This subdivision does not preclude discovery of a report of an examiner or the taking of a deposition of the examiner in accordance with the provisions of any other rule. Rule 35(b)

Requests for Admissions

A party may serve upon any other party a written request for the admission, for purposes of the pending action only, of the truth of any matters within the scope of Rule 26(b)(1) set forth in the request that relate to statements or opinions of fact or of the application of law to fact, including the genuineness of any documents described in the request. Copies of documents must be served with the request unless they have been or are otherwise furnished or made available for inspection and copying. The request, without leave of court, may be served upon the plaintiff after commencement of the action and upon any other party with or after service of the summons and complaint upon that party.

Each matter of which an admission is requested must be separately set forth. The matter is admitted unless, within 30 days after service of the request, or within such shorter or longer time as the court may allow or as the parties may agree to in writing, subject to Rule 29, the party to whom the request is directed serves upon the party requesting the admission a written answer or objection addressed to the matter, signed by the party or by the party’s attorney. Unless the court shortens the time, a defendant is not required to serve answers or objections before the expiration of 45 days after service of the summons and complaint upon that defendant. If objection is made, the reasons therefor must be stated. The answer must specifically deny the matter or set forth in detail the reasons why the answering party cannot truthfully admit or deny the matter. A denial must fairly meet the substance of the requested admission, and if good faith requires that a party qualify an answer or deny only a part of the matter of which an admission is requested, the party shall specify so much of it as is true and qualify or deny the remainder. An answering party may not give lack of information or knowledge as a reason for failure to admit or deny unless the party states that the party has made reasonable inquiry and that the information known or readily obtainable by the party is insufficient to enable the party to admit or deny. A party who considers that a matter of which an admission has been requested presents a genuine issue for trial may not, on that ground alone, object to the request; the party, subject to the provisions of Rule 37(c), may deny the matter or set forth reasons why the party cannot admit or deny it.

A party who has requested admissions may move to determine the sufficiency of the answers or objections. Unless the court determines that an objection is justified, it shall order that an answer be served. If the court determines that an answer does not comply with the requirements of this rule, it may order either that the matter is admitted or that an amended answer be served. The court, in lieu of these orders, may determine that final disposition of the request be made at a pre-trial conference or at a designated time before trial. The provisions of Rule 37(a)(4) apply to the award of expenses incurred in relation to the motion. Rule 36(a)

Compel Discovery

A party, upon reasonable notice to other parties and all persons affected thereby, may apply for an order compelling discovery as follows:

(1) Appropriate Court. An application for an order may be made to the court in which the action is pending or alternatively, on matters relating to a deposition, to the court in the district where the deposition is being taken.

(2) Motion. If a deponent fails to answer a question propounded or submitted under Rules 30 and 31, or a corporation or other entity fails to make a designation under Rule 30(b)(6) or 31(a), or a party fails to answer an interrogatory submitted under Rule 33, or if a party, in response to a request for inspection submitted under Rule 34, fails to respond that inspection will be permitted as requested or fails to permit inspection as requested, the discovering party may move for an order compelling an answer, or a designation, or an order compelling inspection in accordance with the request. While taking a deposition on oral examination, the proponent of the question may complete or adjourn the examination before applying for an order.

(3) Evasive or Incomplete Answer, or Response. For purposes of this subdivision an evasive or incomplete answer, or response is to be treated as a failure to answer, or respond. Rule 37

Domestic Actions Discovery Notes

If you require extra time to respond to discovery, you should ask the other side for an extension in writing. It may also be necessary to enter an order granting the extension to protect your rights.

Discovery questions are limited in number so select the most important questions to ask the other side. Don’t waste your requests writing questions that you already know the answer to.


Inside North Dakota Discovery Law