Hilb Rogal & Hobbs Co. v. Sellars2008 NCBC 12 (N.C. Super. Ct. June 6, 2008)(Diaz)

It is very common to get discovery responses which have "General Objections" up front, followed by specific objections to each of the numbered discovery requests.

There’s a danger in responding that way, based on Judge Diaz’s opinion today in Hilb Rogal & Hobbs Co. v. Sellars.

In Hilb, Defendant’s responses to interrogatories contained general objections "on grounds of relevancy, scope, and undue burden."   Plaintiff moved to compel on particular responses which it contended were not adequate.  Defendant argued that the information sought wasn’t relevant, but he hadn’t included that as an objection to the responses at issue.

The Court cast doubt on whether the objection had been properly presented.  The Court first held that the Rules of Civil Procedure require a party to state its objections in response to each interrogatory:

Rule 33 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure requires that each interrogatory “be answered separately and fully in writing under oath, unless it is objected to, in which event the reasons for objection shall be stated in lieu of an answer.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 33 (2007). Moreover, “[a]n objection to an interrogatory shall be made by stating the objection and the reason therefore either in the space following the interrogatory or following the restated interrogatory.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 33 (2007) (emphasis added).

The Court then stated what it said was the ruling of most federal courts on the subject of general objections:

‘objections stated at the beginning of the response to the interrogatories, are ineffective and are an abuse of the discovery process because such objections block discovery without explaining why and to what extent.’ Waters Edge Living, LLC v. RSUI Indem. Co., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 33049, at *11 (N.D. Fla. Apr. 22, 2008).

Although the Court considered the objection as to relevancy anyway (and found it to be without merit and based on a "crabbed" reading of the interrogatories), there’s clearly a risk in presenting general objections in the manner at issue in the Hilb case