SB 224 Adopted: Missouri Discovery Rules Follow Federal Footsteps

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In 2019, the Missouri legislature passed Senate Bill 224 (SB 224), effectively revising Missouri’s discovery rules to align them with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (See our 2019 post for analysis of SB 224’s changes to the Missouri Rules of Civil Procedure.) The applicability of SB 224’s revisions remained unclear for some time, however, as the Missouri Supreme Court hesitated to adopt them into the Missouri Rules of Civil Procedure.

That changed earlier this month when the Missouri Supreme Court officially amended the Rules to reflect the revisions outlined in SB 224. Of the more noteworthy changes to the Rules is Rule 56.01(b)(1), which now requires that all discovery be proportional to the needs of the case, just as in federal court. Additionally, Rule 56.01(b)(9) now contains clawback provisions for any privileged material and specifically provides that production of such material, whether inadvertent or not, is not a waiver of privilege. And Rule 56.01(b)(3) addresses electronically stored information for the first time.

The new Rules also substantially rein in litigants’ ability to serve discovery requests. For instance, whereas the Missouri Rules previously contained no cap on the amount of requests a party could serve on its opponent, Rule 57.01(a) now specifically limits parties to no more than 25 interrogatories, including subparts, and Rule 58.01(a) limits each side (plaintiffs, defendants, third-party defendants) to no more than 10 depositions. Similarly, Rule 58.01(b)(4) restricts the length of depositions to no more than seven hours. There is, however, a caveat to the seven-hour cutoff: Missouri courts may allow additional time for the duration of depositions consistent with Rule 56.01 if needed to fairly examine the deponent or if the deponent, another person, or any other circumstance impedes or delays the examination. Rule 57.03(b)(5)(A).

The new Rules officially take effect on September 2, 2021 and will apply to all cases filed thereafter. Pending cases, moreover, may be subject to the new Rules under Missouri Rule 41.06, which provides for retroactive application to the extent such application is feasible and would not work injustice.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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