During discovery, a request for a hard copy or electronic documents or other tangible items may be made by one party or the other in a legal case. These documents may be anything which may be relevant to the subject matter of the case being pursued. The request for documents includes a request for relevant email messages which may or may not have a bearing on the case.
Whoever is the responding party (i.e. the party that is in receipt of the request for documents) is then required to provide whatever relevant documents that have been requested unless they are legally privileged. They may also state a reason why documents cannot be provided. This may be because the documents do not exist because they have been destroyed, or the burden of providing them appears to be too much or the party does not actually possess them. Even in these situations, the party requesting the documents may file a Motion to Compel Discovery if they still think that the documents can be made available.
As with interrogatories, there is normally a time limit within which the responding party must respond or make an objection to the request. The term “documents” is quite wide ranging and includes such things as books, graphs, drawings, videotaped recordings, charts, photographs as well as any electronically recorded images, files or messages.