You raise several issues.
First, while paying sanctions to address the prevailing party attorney fees is one of the pressures brought by engaging in discovery abuse, it is not the only pressure. The court can sanction a recalcitrant party with the money paid into the court if it believes there is an abuse of the discovery process. Furthermore, if the abuse continues, subsequent motions might result in non-monetary sanctions, like issue sanctions or terminating sanctions. Another big down side to being found to have committed discovery abuse is the reputation the party creates with the judge, who may be assigned to try the case. Parties who obfuscate and delay generally create a bad impression.
Second, your idea of hiring an attorney to handle just the motion to compel is a credible idea. There is a trend toward "unbundling of legal services" meaning piecemeal retention of attorneys for parts of the matter. If you could find an attorney willing to associate into the case for the limited purpose of prosecuting your motion(s) to compel, then you would not only have very competent help and the attorney fees might be assessable as sanctions. Just keep in mind that rarely do judges assess sanctions in the full amount of the attorney fees it takes to completely handle the motion to compel through hearing. You may still have to pay more than you would get back.
Good luck to you.
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If you know they do not have any documents to back up their contentions, then an option is to let it go. Then if they attempt to use the documents in evidence at trial, they can be barred from doing so. Even if they do have the documents and tey don't produce them in response to your specific requests for them, they won't be able to use them.
I like the advice above, perhaps you can hire an attorney to at least discuss your options with. Good luck.
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