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Allen v. Crowell-Collier Publishing Co.

Court of Appeals of New York

January 17, 1968, Argued ; February 21, 1968, Decided

No Number in Original

Case Summary

Procedural Posture

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court (New York) affirmed an order granting, in part, a motion by defendant employer to strike certain portions of interrogatories propounded by plaintiff employees. The question of whether that order was properly made was certified. The employer contended that the appellate division also did not have the power to review the discretionary decision made by the lower court.

Overview

The employees submitted interrogatories to the employer, under N.Y. C.P.L.R. 3101, 3130, seeking information about the employer's practices regarding severance and retirement pay. The employer contended that the interrogatories were not material or necessary to the resolution of the issues. However, the employer did not contend that the interrogatories were burdensome or sought privileged information. The court found that, under N.Y. C.P.L.R. 3101(a), the words "material and necessary" were to be interpreted liberally to require disclosure. The word "necessary" did not mean "indispensable." Because the information sought by the employees was material and necessary to the prosecution of their action, the employees were entitled to answers to their interrogatories. The employees needed to know whether the severance and retirement pay policy was in effect at the specific plant at which they had been employed. The answers to the interrogatories would assist the employees in that regard.

Outcome

The court reversed the order of the appellate division and answered the certified question in the negative. The decision to affirm the striking of portions of the employees' interrogatories was not properly made.

LexisNexis® Headnotes

 

 

Civil Procedure > Discovery & Disclosure > Disclosure > Mandatory Disclosures

HN1  Disclosure, Mandatory Disclosures

N.Y. C.P.L.R. 3101(a) provides that there shall be full disclosure of all evidence material and necessary in the prosecution or defense of an action, regardless of the burden of proof.

 

Civil Procedure > Discovery & Disclosure > Discovery > Relevance of Discoverable Information

Criminal Law & Procedure > Appeals > Reviewability > General Overview

Civil Procedure > Appeals > Standards of Review > Abuse of Discretion

Criminal Law & Procedure > ... > Standards of Review > Abuse of Discretion > General Overview

HN2  Discovery, Relevance of Discoverable Information

The courts possess a wide discretion to decide whether information sought is material and necessary, within the meaning of N.Y. C.P.L.R. 3101(a), to the prosecution or defense of an action, but that discretion is not unlimited. Where an issue exists as to whether there has been an abuse of discretion, a reviewable question of law is presented.

 

Civil Procedure > Pretrial Matters > General Overview

Civil Procedure > Discovery & Disclosure > Disclosure > Mandatory Disclosures

HN3  Civil Procedure, Pretrial Matters

The words, "material and necessary," found in N.Y. C.P.L.R. 3101(a) are to be interpreted liberally to require disclosure, upon request, of any facts bearing on the controversy which will assist preparation for trial by sharpening the issues and reducing delay and prolixity. The test is one of usefulness and reason. Rule 3101(a) should be construed to permit discovery of testimony that is sufficiently related to the issues in litigation to make the effort to obtain it in preparation for trial reasonable. The purpose of disclosure procedures is to advance the function of a trial to ascertain truth and to accelerate the disposition of actions. If there is any possibility that the information is sought in good faith for possible use as evidence-in-chief or in rebuttal or for cross-examination, it should be considered as evidence material in the prosecution or defense.

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21 N.Y.2d 403 ; 235 N.E.2d 430 ; 288 N.Y.S.2d 449 ; 1968 N.Y. LEXIS 1598 

Lillian Allen et al., Appellants, v. Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, Respondent

Prior History:  [1]  Allen v. Crowell-Collier Pub. Co., 26 A D 2d 516, reversed.

Appeal, by permission of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the First Judicial Department, from an order of said court, entered June 9, 1966, which affirmed, by a divided court, an order of the Supreme Court at Special Term (Peter A. Quinn, J.), entered June 25, 1964 in New York County, granting, in part, a motion by defendant to strike certain portions of plaintiffs' interrogatories. The following question was certified: "Was the order of the Supreme Court, entered on June 25, 1964, which was affirmed by order of the Appellate Division, entered in the office of the Clerk on June 9, 1966, properly made?"

Disposition: Order reversed, etc.