Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Discovery - Civil Litigation Definition:

The making known to the other side of a law suit, of all relevant evidence.

Related Terms: Discovery - International Law

In The Art of Discovery, R. White writes:

"Discovery consists of those procedures mandated by law by which it is intended that a party to a civil proceeding may obtain information about the case of any party who is adverse in interest to him."

In Metropolitan Properties, Justice Hunt wrote:

"Discovery is defined as the act of disclosing to view; the act of revealing or making known."

In Reading, Justice McNair wrote:

"The purpose of discovery, whether oral or by production of documents, is to obtain admissions to facilitate proof of the matters in issue between the parties. The prevailing trend today favours broadening the avenues of fair and full disclosure to enable the party to advance his own case or to damage the case of his adversary. Discovery can serve to bring the issues more clearly into focus, thus avoiding unnecessary proof and additional costs at trial. Discovery can also provide a very useful tool for purposes of cross-examination."

Although discovery is not limited to documents and includes other avenues for gathering evidence, such as the oral testimony extracted through an examination  for discovery, discovery of documents is a key part of discovery in most cases. In A v L, the Alberta Court wrote:

"... the difference between discovery of documents and production of documents. The first relates to what documents a litigant has or had that touch on the issues in the lawsuit. The second relates to what documents the opposing litigant is entitled to see. The first is about relevance. The second is about privilege. It is as simple as that."


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