In Ryan v. Gifford, (Del. Ch., Feb. 7, 2008), read opinion here, the Chancery Court  resolved a discovery dispute and ruled on the quotidian quibbling that is sometimes unavoidable in the fight for documents and data that the other side is not always willing to provide with alacrity and celerity in the course of exchanging information among the parties in order to prepare for trial.

This case has been the subject of four (4) prior decisions that have been summarized on this blog and collected here.

The instant decision involves an old-fashioned motion to compel. For those of us who labor in the trenches of discovery battles, the decision provides several practical gems that belong in the toolbox of every lawyer who engages in hand-to-hand business litigation.

For example, in ordering the supplementation and updating of discovery replies, the court observed:

Under Rule 33(c), this Court may permit a party to defer answering a contention interrogatory until after the completion of discovery or some later  time.FN4    Cognizant of the briefing schedule currently in place for the summary judgment motions, the Court orders that service of plaintiffs’ updated responses must be accomplished by three days after the close of discovery. The individual defendants have shown no need, such as the need for response before a scheduled deposition,FN5,    for plaintiffs’ responses before the close of fact discovery.FN6

As often happens, the footnotes (to the foregoing quote) contain juicy morsels that I am certain will come in handy for future discovery issues that are certain to arise. Here they are:

FN4.“An interrogatory otherwise proper is not necessarily objectionable merely because an answer to the interrogatory involves an opinion or contention that relates to fact or the application of law to fact, but the Court may order that such an interrogatory need not be answered until after designated discovery has been completed or until a pretrial conference or other later time.”Ct. Ch. R. 33(c).

FN5.See In re Walt Disney Co., No. 15452- NC, 2003 WL 22682621, at *1 (Oct. 30, 2003) (granting defendant’s motion to compel plaintiffs’ answers to interrogatories because defendant was “entitled to understand, before his deposition, the factual basis for the claim against him”).

FN6. In fact, the Court is rather puzzled by the renewal of this motion to compel. The individual defendants moved for summary judgment in mid-October 2007 and filed a revised brief in support of that motion at the end of December 2007. Summary judgment
is appropriate only where there are no genuine issues of material fact. Ct. Ch. R. 56(c). To the extent that moving for summary judgment signals to the Court that the moving party believes that there are no undisputed issues of material fact, filing such a motion would seem to moot or eclipse the need for discovery, as the Court suggested in its November 30, 2007 Opinion and Order.