• January 25, 2016

Dickens’ Oliver Twist asks Mr. Bumble for some more gruel.

In the Bubble Pony v. Facepunch lawsuit, covered here previously, Plaintiff’s counsel has come to court, bowl in hand, to ask Sr. U.S. District Court Judge David S. Doty (D. Minn) for more civil procedure gruel. That is, Plaintiff’s counsel is asking for permission to ask his adversary, Facepunch, more “interrogatories.”

The court permits 25 questions of one’s adversary, a substantial enough meal for most litigants. Without knowing more, it is hard to say who’s to blame for troubling the judicial analog of Mr. Bumble.

One does not see requests of this kind very often, for a couple of reasons.

First, contrary to popular belief, many civil litigators are reasonable. If you ask your opposition for permission to ask a few more than 25 questions (or maybe even more than a few more), opposing counsel will often grant the request without the need for court involvement.

Second (and, to my mind, regrettably), very often parties responding to interrogatories (or more precisely their lawyers) weasel, parse, spin, sidestep, stonewall, and play dumb in answering interrogatories. Why bother to ask more questions if the answers you get have no nutritional value?

For this reason, most U.S. civil litigators prefer discovering facts through documents and through depositions. (Patent litigation might be an exception to the general rule.) The challenge for Plaintiff Bubble Pony, however, is that Defendant is in the United Kingdom. Understandably, Bubble Pony would prefer to save some shillings and get interrogatory answers rather than seeking answers in person, across the pond.

pinkie_pie_bubble ponyHard to say how this will play out but Bubble Pony MIGHT have a problem because it does not appear to have filed its “meet and confer” statement. Courts require such things so they are not troubled by litigants rushing to court to hash out disputes before the lawyers have bothered to let the other side know there is a dispute. If it failed to meet its “meet/confer obligation,” Bubble Pony’s motion might be D.O.A.

Assuming that BP did ask Facepunch for permission to exceed the 25-interrogatory limit, we must assume the Defendant said, “No.”

The question then shifts, to my mind, to whether Plaintiff’s interrogatories are stupid, repetitive, off-the-wall, harassing, or enormously burdensome. If not, then maybe Facepunch deserves a juridical face punch? Here, linked, are BP’s interrogatories and you can decide for yourself (here and here). They seem consistent with the standard fare I come across. Stay tuned…

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