What are Interrogatories, Requests to Produce, and Requests for Admissions
In a civil lawsuit the parties obtain and exchange information in a process called discovery. This is different from criminal cases where the government brings a case based on evidence it uncovered. In a civil lawsuit the proponent of an allegation has to prove it with evidence obtained in discovery.
What are Interrogatories Interrogatories are only exchanged between the actual parties in a lawsuit. The parties means the plaintiffs and defendants. They are written questions to the other party. The discovery rules limit the number of interrogatories but judges can allow more questions if there is a reason to do so. Lawyers normally draft the answers with the party and the party signs them under oath just as if they were testifying in court.
What are Requests to Produce Requests to Produce ask a party for documents or categories of documents. Document requests include ESI such as electronic documents and data. In addition to another party in the lawsuit they can be directed to a non-party or third party in a slightly different form. This allows a party to obtain documents from a party outside the lawsuit without requiring them to appear at a deposition just to deliver documents.
Unlike interrogatories Requests to Produce are not limited in number. Upon receipt from the opposing party your business lawyer working with you will assess whether any requests are objectionable and what should be produced. These production requests are regularly used in lawsuits. As a result, parties should not delete data, throw away computers, or dispose of mobile devices after they are served with a lawsuit or a litigation hold notice.
What are Requests for Admissions Requests for Admissions are also exchanged only between the parties in a lawsuit. They ask the opposing party to admit or deny a specific fact. When a fact is admitted the party propounding the request then does not have to independently prove that fact later.
Admissions should only be answered with the assistance of your corporate attorney. Admissions have extensive implications in a lawsuit. Admitting a fact in a Request for Admissions admits that fact for all purposes. Conversely denying a fact without a basis for so doing can carry negative consequences as well. Thus the best person to assess these requests with you is your business lawyer.
When can I use discovery Discovery requests can be served with the lawsuit or at almost any time during it. When they come with the lawsuit the response time is extended beyond when they come in the lawsuit. If you receive discovery requests with the Complaint you should be sure to provide those to your business attorney. In the lawsuit you lawyer will be served with the discovery requests but unless you provide the initial ones your business lawyer may not be aware that you received those. A failure to timely respond can have negative consequences. With Admissions if those are not answered on time then the facts can be deemed admitted. Errors such as this can usually be corrected but the expense to do so far exceeds the cost of simply responding in a timely manner.
There is also no right or wrong time to employ discovery requests. Sometimes they are used at the beginning of a suit. Other times they are used toward the end and sometimes they are used several times in different phases of discovery. Paper discovery can also be used together with other discovery mechanisms like depositions. So the use of paper discovery like Interrogatories, Requests to Produce, and Requests for Admissions depends on the strategy that you and your business lawyer develop in a unique case.
The takeaway Parties in a civil lawsuit use discovery to gather evidence to prove their case. The Rules of Civil Procedure in Florida dictate what discovery mechanisms can be used and what can be obtained. Which ones and when are a strategic decision for you and your business lawyer. Likewise how to respond to such requests and what to produce must be discussed with your corporate counsel.
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Written by David Steinfeld
Check out business lawyer David Steinfeld online for helpful videos and articles on Florida business law, real estate disputes, and electronic discovery solutions for your business. This article is provided for informational purposes only.