Interrogatories are written questions sent from one party to another that must be answered in writing and under oath. The standards for discovery requests are very lenient, and the basic rule is that parties can ask for any information that is relevant or might lead to the discovery of relevant information. As such, the interrogatories you receive may seem excessive or not directly related to the litigation, but for the most part, you are expected to answer the questions or provide the documents. The standard requirement is that you must answer the questions based on your knowledge. You do not have to conduct any research to find answers to the questions, and it is acceptable to respond that you do not recall if that is accurate. On the other hand, if the information requests are something that is within your control (e.g., dates of emails that are stored in your Gmail account), you will be required to obtain this information so as to respond to the discovery.
What is Discovery?
Discovery is the stage in litigation where parties can request information from each other or third-parties to prove or disprove the claims or defenses the parties have made. Litigation Discovery ensures that the parties and their counsel can learn the facts before trial and helps to narrow issues that may not be in dispute to keep the trial moving efficiently. The types of discovery requests we may receive or that we may send to other parties are Requests for Production of Documents, Interrogatories (written questions about the lawsuit), and Requests for Admissions (written statements that the other party requests that you either admit or deny). Additionally, each may party may request to conduct depositions, which is an opportunity to ask the opposing party questions under oath before trial. Parties may also request an inspection of any building or property that is subject to the lawsuit. Discovery is one of the more time-consuming parts of litigation, and therefore, it is important to start thinking about discovery early in the litigation process and to gather documents and information as soon as the case is filed to make it as easy as possible to respond to discovery requests.
What are the rules related to Interrogatories?
The rules surrounding interrogatories—such as the number of questions interrogatories can include, when they must be given to the other party, and how long the other party has to answer them—are all governed by the rules of procedure used in the court where the case was filed. In Missouri and most Kansas cases, you will have thirty days to respond to interrogatories that the opposing party sends to you. If the case was filed under chapter 61 (disputes under $25,000) in Kansas, you have only fourteen days to respond to interrogatories. It is expected that the parties make a reasonable attempt to respond to the discovery requests within that timeline. However, it is common for parties to get extensions on the deadlines for responding to discovery requests. As such, please do not be surprised if we do not receive responses to discovery requests we send within the thirty-day deadline.
How should responses to Interrogatories be written?
When responding to interrogatories, be sure to answer the question fully, but only answer the question asked. For example, if the question asks “when did you hire the contractor to fix the plumbing issue,” your response should simply be the date the contractor was hired and you need not provide information about why the contractor was hired, delays before the contractor started working, or other information not specifically requested by the other party. Please note that we will review any responses you provide to interrogatories (or other discovery requests) before providing them to the other side. You must be completely truthful when responding to discovery requests. As such, please do not try to provide the “right answer” or “the answer that will best help your case.” Instead, please provide the most accurate answer to the question being asked.
Why did we draft a request for information we already know or why is the other side asking something it should know?
Any attorney may draft certain requests for strategic reasons. For example, if there is a request for admissions, it may ask for admissions to things that one side knows the other is likely to deny. The reason for this is that if the party receiving the requests does not send a timely response, the court may declare the admissions admitted. Therefore, these requests are drafted to put certain information before the court in the event a response is not received. Moreover, an attorney may draft discovery requests to narrow the legal issues for the court or to establish that the other side does not have certain documents.
Is it all right if I lie or do not provide all of the information in response to an Interrogatory?
No. You must be completely truthful when responding to discovery requests. You are answering the questions under oath and will have to sign your responses. If you provide an untruthful answer, you may be found guilty of perjury. More importantly, if an answer you provide in response to a discovery request is later found to be untruthful, it could damage your credibility before the judge or jury and will greatly diminish your chances of success.