What Is A Motion to Compel (All You Need To Know)

What is a motion to compel?

When can you file a motion to compel?

What does a motion to compel discovery entail?

You have so many questions on the motion to compel!

And we’ve got answers…

In this article, we will go over what a motion to compel really means, when it can be filed, the motion to compel hearing, the consequences to ignore a motion to compel and the possible sanctions.

Are you ready?

Let’s dive right in.

What is a motion to compel

A motion to compel is a request made to the court to force a party to a lawsuit or a person to comply with a request or to do something.

By saying motion to “compel”, we are referring to the order from the court “forcing” or “ordering” someone to do something.

In a lawsuit, a party may need to file a motion to compel in different circumstances.

Often, the motion to compel is sent during the discovery phase of a lawsuit when another party does not collaborate in disclosing evidence or providing relevant case information.

For example, a party requests evidence, documents or material from the other party and the other party fails to provide the needed information or collaborate in any way.

If the lawyers are unable to find a resolution between themselves, the moving party will file a motion to compel to request from the court an order compelling the other party to share the information needed.

Once the court grants the motion to compel, the court will grant the other party a deadline before which the documents or information must be shared.

If the person does not respect the order of the court, there may be severe consequences such as the dismissal of the other party’s case or being in contempt of court.

Types of motion to compel 

A motion to compel can be requested for different aspects of a lawsuit.

Although you need to make sure you understand the motion to compel rule in your jurisdiction, the following is a quick list of some types of motion to compel:

  1. Motion to compel hearing
  2. Motion to compel documents
  3. Motion to compel deposition
  4. Motion to compel production 
  5. Motion to compel disclosure
  6. Motion to compel response

As you can see, an order to compel can be sought for different reasons.

Most often, we see the motion to compel as it relates to the discovery of a matter, communication of documents, production of documents, response to formal questions and so on.

The motion to compel is a tool generally used in gathering evidence in the hands of another party in the context of a lawsuit.

When can you file a motion to compel 

Generally, a motion to compel is filed in the context of a party or third-party to a lawsuit failing to collaborate or provide sufficient response to a discovery demand.

There are different discovery categories and a motion to compel can be filed concerning any of such discovery categories.

You can have a demand for:

  1. The production of documents
  2. A deposition
  3. Interrogatories
  4. Subpoena 

The production of documents is when you need the other party to produce tangible evidence such as recordings, documents and letters.

A deposition is when you demand that the other party answer questions under oath and in person.

The interrogatories are when a party is given written questions to which written answers are requested under oath.

Subpoena duces tecum is a court summon asking a person to communicate and produce documents under pain of penalty.

If a person does not comply with such demands, a motion to compel can be filed to order the person to act.

Filing a motion to compel

Depending on your jurisdiction, your court rules of procedure may be different.

A motion to compel must provide a detailed summary and explanation of the facts.

In your motion, you must outline what information, document or evidence you’ve asked from the other party and why are they relevant to the case.

You should also outline how the other party has failed to comply with your request for discovery or evidence.

In addition to your motion, you’ll need to support your arguments with case laws and authorities.

The case law and authorities will support any specific discovery request a judge may question or provide guidance to the court that your request, based on the circumstances of the case, is reasonable and relevant.

Also, you’ll need to provide the other party with a notice of hearing or a court summons so they are informed that a motion to compel has been filed and that you intend on proceeding with it in court.

What happens after a motion to compel is filed

When a motion to compel is filed, the parties will then need to present their respective positions to the court.

The party filing the motion to compel must demonstrate that a request for discovery, documents, evidence or material has been made, the request is reasonable and relevant and the other party has failed to comply with the party’s requests.

The other party may contest or object to the disclosure of the evidence on the basis that it is not relevant, the information was already communicated, the other party is going into a fishing expedition and asking for an excessive amount of information or beyond the scope of the litigation.

Of course, these are just some arguments but you get the point.

Once the hearing is over, the judge ultimately renders a decision.

Either the judge grants the motion to compel in full, partially grants it or denies it.

If it’s granted or partially granted, the judge will provide a deadline to the other party to communicate the information required by the judge.

Now, the other party has a legal obligation to comply with the judgment of the court failure of which there may be sanctions or severe consequences.

What is a motion to compel hearing

A motion to compel hearing is the process where a party to a lawsuit demands the communication or disclosure of evidence from another party or third-party and seeks assistance from the court.

In most cases, a motion to compel is filed in the content of the discovery phase of a legal dispute.

A motion to compel hearing can be requested when:

  1. A party fails to answer a question propounded
  2. A party fails to respond to a discovery request adequately 
  3. A party objects to a discovery request
  4. A party fails to produce documents 
  5. A party fails to allow an inspection of evidence

There could be many more reasons justifying that a motion to compel hearing.

To request the hearing, you must observe the motion to compel rules applicable to the court.

What happens if a motion to compel is ignored

If a motion to compel is ignored the filing of a motion to compel, there may be severe and important consequences to the failing party.

Among others, here are some of the sanctions that are possible:

  1. The court inferring that the document, information or testimony would have been adverse to the failing party
  2. The court ordering that any designated facts be considered as established based on the party’s motion to compel
  3. Prohibiting the failing party to produce documents or information relying on the material withheld 
  4. Prohibiting the failing party to use evidence obtained during discovery at the hearing
  5. Allowing the other party to produce secondary evidence 
  6. Ordering the striking of any allegations in the pleadings 
  7. The taking of any other measures appropriate

Most of the time, it may be detrimental to a party’s case to ignore a motion to compel.

Tips for lawyers

Lawyers should act diligently when representing a client in a lawsuit particularly when there is a request for a discovery made against their client.

The lawyer should avoid losing time and immediately send the request for information and evidence to his or her client.

It’s best practice is to recommend that your client to respond to as many information as possible unless gathering the information may be excessive or unreasonable in the effort.

If a document cannot be found or it’s unreasonable to find it, it’s best to provide the details to the other party, the steps taken to find the information or why it’s not reasonable or excessive to get the information.

The discovery phase of a case is broad, so if you can provide as much information as reasonably requested, you are better off.

If you have objections to disclosing evidence, make sure that your objection is based on important grounds and not purely procedural.

If additional time may be needed to provide the discovery information, request an extension from the other party as soon as possible.

If your client does not collaborate with you, decide if it’s still worth it to represent that client as you may be exposed to sanctions by the court personally.

Tips for clients 

If you file a lawsuit, you must accept and be ready to share and communicate evidence or documents in your hands during the discovery phase of your case.

The law gives you the right to do the discovery to gather the evidence and information you need to support your case.

The same is true for the other party.

If you expect discovery from the other party without providing any on your side, you may face sanctions and penalties from the court.

The court has the power to dismiss your case if you fail to respect provide requested information during the discovery phase of the legal proceeding.

You can also be condemned for contempt of court if you deliberately refuse to comply with a judgment rendered by the court on a motion to compel.

Having said that, when you get a discovery request, you should act quickly and gather the documents and information requested.

Once you’ve gathered all your information, it would be a good idea to go through them with your attorney to ensure he or she is aware of what is going to be shared with the other party.

Make sure your documents are organized so your lawyer can understand them.

Take the time to go through the material with your solicitor and make sure you provide all the relevant information.

If some documents or information are not to be shared, make sure you get advice from your lawyer as to the consequences and strategy.

The discovery phase is not about how well you can hide your information but how much you are collaborating.

If you fail to collaborate, the court may restrict your ability to make evidence in court, prevent you from using discovery material as evidence, strike allegations from your pleadings and take other measures that may adversely impact your case.

Make sure you follow through with the discovery demands and if there is a motion to compel discovery is filed, make sure you immediately address it.


A motion to compel is a motion filed against a party to a lawsuit or a third-party intended to have the court order them to do something.

Often, a motion to compel is filed during the discovery phase of a lawsuit.

When parties are performing their discovery, they need to get information from the other party or a witness.

They can ask for documents, letters, emails, recordings, video, audio, a tangible asset or any other type of evidence relevant to the case.

If a party fails to respond to a discovery request or the disclosure of evidence, the other party may file a motion to compel.

These types of motions must follow the applicable rules of the court.

In some jurisdictions, before filing a motion to compel, the parties must have a “meet and confer” session.

Once the court renders a judgment on a motion to compel, the court may either fully award the motion, partially award it or deny it.

If it’s awarded, the court will order the failing party to communicate the specified evidence within a given timeline.

If the party fails to act as such, they may face sanctions as deemed appropriate by the court.

During the discovery of a case, it’s in your best interest to make sure you collaborate as much as possible to communicate evidence.

The courts want to make a decision on the merits of your case will not see a party favourably if they try to win without following the rules.

Make sure you take a motion to compel seriously.

We hope that this article helped you better understand the motion to compel.

Did you ever have to deal with a motion to compel?

What was your experience?

We would love to hear from you, drop us a comment!