March 18, 2024

Unwrapping the Paper Trail: A Primer on Requests for Production in NC

When you think about civil litigation, you’re probably envisioning dramatic courtroom scenes. But before any North Carolina lawsuit lands in front of a judge or jury, there’s a whole lot of information sharing that has to happen first. This behind-the-scenes evidence gathering is called discovery. One of the key tools for prying information out of the opposing side is called a request for production. In this article we’ll go over how these requests work to uncover the paper trail underlying a civil dispute.

What is a Request for Production?

A request for production is a formal request made by one party in a lawsuit demanding that the other party hand over specific documents, records, or other tangible evidence relevant to the case. This can include things like medical records, police reports, photographs, receipts, emails, or even physical objects like car parts. Essentially, it’s a way to make the other side show you the evidence they have in their possession.

Each request focuses on a particular category of evidence and must describe with “reasonable particularity” what is being requested. Broad, vague requests like “give me anything relevant to this case” will not cut it. The request has to be specific enough that the other side knows what is being asked for.

Sending the Request Over to the Other Side

Once served, the opposing side typically has 30 days to gather the requested records and either send copies to the other side or make them available for inspection. In today’s age, it is almost always copies. But this doesn’t mean the other side will just hand over anything and everything requested. The other side can object if they think the request is improper. When objections occur, the parties can usually resolve it amongst themselves. Other times, the court may need to step in and decide if the objecting party has to provide the requested evidence or not.

Compelling Production with a Motion

If a compromise on an objection cannot be reached, or if the other side flat out refuses to respond to the request at all, then you can file what’s called a motion to compel discovery. This asks the judge to order the other side to respond. If the judge agrees that the request was proper and the opposing party failed to respond, then the judge can order sanctions in addition to requiring a response. These sanctions penalize noncompliance and range from paying attorney’s fees to even admitting facts related to that discovery violation. Usually, though, when there was a good-faith objection, courts hesitate to impose sanctions.

Why Requests for Production Matter

Uncovering key documents, records, and objects can profoundly impact a case’s outcome. These requests help level the playing field by allowing both sides to see the evidence being used against them. It also clarifies the facts each side intends to prove at trial. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a case early in the process also helps facilitate settlement discussions. For anyone embroiled in a NC civil lawsuit, wrapping your mind around how discovery functions is critical to advocating for yourself effectively.


Hopefully, this provided useful insight into this important part of the litigation process. The world of requests, motions, and discovery may seem dull in comparison to courtroom drama—but it’s how the groundwork for those dramatic moments is laid.

This information is provided by Harris Legal for general benefit, education, and interest. If you have a specific legal question, you should consult with an attorney.