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words of law legal terms


Words of law is a regular feature of Massachusetts Law Updates, highlighting a particular word or phrase and its meaning in law.

Today’s word is discovery.

discovery, n. 1. The act or process of finding or learning something that was previously unknown <after making the discovery, the inventor immediately applied for a patent>.  Cf. invention 2. Compulsory disclosure, at a party’s request, of information that relates to the litigation <the plaintiff filed a motion to compel discovery>. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26-37; Fed. R. Crim. P. 16. The primary discovery devices are interrogatories, depositions, requests for admissions, and requests for production.  Although discovery typically comes from parties, courts also allow limited discovery from nonparties.  3. The facts or documents disclosed <the new associate spent all her time reviewing discovery>. 4. The pretrial phase of a lawsuit during which depositions, interrogatories and other forms of discovery are conducted.  discover, vb — discoverable, adj. “Discovery has broad scope.  According to Federal Rule 26, which is the model in modern procedural codes, inquiry may be made into ‘any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the subject matter of the action.’  Thus, discovery may be had of facts incidentally relevant to the issues in the pleadings even if the facts do not directly prove or disprove the facts in question.”  Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr. & Michele Taruffo, American Civil Procedure: An Introduction 115 (1993).

 –  Black’s Law Dictionary, 10th ed., Bryan A. Garner, Editor in Chief, Thomson Reuters, 2014.

“The purposes for which discovery rules exist ‘are to avoid surprise and the possible miscarriage of justice, to disclose fully the nature and scope of the controversy, to narrow, simplify, and frame the issues involved, and to enable a party to obtain the information needed to prepare for trial.'” GTE Products Corp. v. Stewart, 414 Mass 721, 725 (1993) (quoting 8 C. A. Wright & A. R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure sec. 2001 at 17-19 (1970)).

For more information on the topic, visit our page on Massachusetts Law about Discovery .


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