Discovery is a process used to prepare for trial, and is usually used in a contested case. The discovery process includes interrogatories, requests for admissions, requests for documents or production and requests for disclosure. The party who receives the discovery has thirty days from the date it is received to return the information to the requesting attorney.
Interrogatories are composed of questions about finances, assets, pensions, and similar financial issues. These questions are usually narrowly focused and are an attempt to lock the other party into a specific position. Common topics include asking for specific, detailed descriptions of events or explanations of exactly how a dollar amount for damages was determined. These questions need to be answered very carefully as they will be examined closely by the other side’s lawyer and it is not uncommon for the same questions to be asked again in a trial or deposition. Differences between written responses and later responses can create havoc with a case.
Through their attorneys, the parties can also request documents such as bank statements, credit-card bills, receipts, tax returns, paycheck stubs, medical records, etc. This is known as a request for production. It is important to note that a party can only be required to produce documents that are in their possession or are easily accessible. They are not required to create documents. Therefore requests such as “Create a map showing your exact position before and after the accident” are not valid and should be objected to. It is extremely important to provide every document that could possibly respond to a request. If a document is not provided to the other side it may not be used at trial.
Requests for admissions are written statements that the receiving party is asked to either admit or deny. These statements are generally used to narrow issues or more clearly define a party’s position. Statements such as “Do you admit or deny that you were driving a red Mazda at 3:15 P.M. on Monday, May 17, 2010″ are common. Another use for request for admissions is to create evidence for summary judgment. If one side admits to requests for admissions that prove the other side’s case, that side has the right to ask the judge for a ruling stating that their case has been proved and no trial is necessary. Requests for admissions should always be returned to the requesting attorney in a timely manner. If the response is even one day late the requests are all deemed or assumed to be admitted. This means that the court assumes that the party that received the requests admits to every statement and these admissions can be used later as evidence either at trial or in a summary judgment hearing.
Requests for disclosure are a set of routine questions that the statute says are always appropriate for every case and if asked may not be objected to. Generally the attorneys for the parties handle the responses to this type of discovery as they are somewhat technical in nature.
Parties may also request, through their attorneys, to depose the other party or witnesses. A deposition takes place in the presence of a court reporter. The court reporter will later transcribe what was said into a typewritten booklet. These depositions can also be videotaped or recorded. The expense of depositions will be taxed to the party requesting the deposition, with the exception of the costs for your attorney to be present at the deposition.