Recently I saw the following document response and without even looking at the document request I knew that the response was bad and a motion to compel further responses was going to need to be filed:
Objection, as some or all of these documents are equally or more available to Plaintiffs. Without waiving, responding party states that all responsive, unprivileged, known, and reasonably available documents will be produced by Defendant, if they have not already been produced to Plaintiffs.
First, unless the request is asking the responding part to obtain a public document or a statement from a third party, the objection on the grounds of “Equal Access” is improper. See Weil and Brown California Practice Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial (TRG 2016) 8:1062-64 citing Bunnel v. Superior Court (1967) 254 CA2d 720, 723-724 and Holguin v. Superior Court (1972) 22 CA3d 812, 821.
Second, by definition, a document request seeks only documents that are in the responding party’s possession, custody or control. (See C.C.P. §2031.010(b), (party may demand any document “in the possession, custody, or control of the party on whom the demand is made”).) Even if the propounding party has copies of the documents, the propounding party is entitled to inspect documents that are in responding party’s possession, custody or control.
Third, the response that “unprivileged” documents will be produced implies that privileged documents will not be produced and the court would deem the response to be an objection. Thus, the responding party must amend its responses by identifying each privileged document that is not being produced, as detailed in Code of Civil Procedure §2031.240(b). Alternatively, if no privileged documents exist, then the responding party will need to amend its response to omit the word “unprivileged.”
Fourth, the response that documents will be produced “if they have not already been produced” is evasive. The response should simply state whether they would be produced or not.
A Word of Advice: It is important that you follow up on the deficiencies of a document response as you don’t want to a document introduced as at trial by your opponent that you never seen before. Make sure that the response is in compliance with C.C.P. 2031.210, 2031.220, 2031.230 and 2031.240 and that you are satisfied that the responding party has conducted a diligent search and reasonable inquiry when collecting the documents for production.