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June 28th, 2013

Colorado High Court to Trial Courts: Discovery Must Be Reasonably Limited

Winning an automatic Points of Light citation in the upcoming edition of ATRA’s annual Judicial Hellholes report (due out in December), a Colorado Supreme Court decision this week instructs trial courts to enforce reasonable limits on the discovery process.

Discovery is often abused by plaintiffs’ lawyers who demand millions of seemingly unrelated documents from a defendant in hopes of driving litigation costs high enough to force a settlement or otherwise providing grounds for additional lawsuits.  Such a fishing expedition is what a trial judge had allowed in the case of DCP Midstream LLP v. Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.

But the defendant appealed to Colorado’s high court, which unanimously remanded the case back to the lower with instructions to require plaintiffs to show the relevance of the discovery documents they sought.

As reported by Legal Newsline, Chief Justice Michael Bender wrote the decision, including this: “The trial court must determine the appropriate scope of discovery in light of the reasonable needs of the case and tailor discovery to those needs[.]”

ATRA had filed an amicus brief urging the high court to set reasonable discovery limits and hopes other state supreme courts will follow suit.  This decision continues a promising trend, following last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that keeps plaintiffs’ lawyers from trolling through state motor vehicles records in hopes of finding clients to sue car dealers or manufacturers.

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