What is discovery
Discovery in a civil lawsuit is the process of obtaining and exchanging evidence. It is structured by rules of procedure. It is also punctuated by disputes over who can or should get what.
In a criminal case the authorities often investigate and secure evidence before charging someone with a crime. In contrast a party might file its civil lawsuit based only on a good faith belief of the actions of the other side. They then have to use discovery to gather the evidence to prove their case. The rules of civil procedure give structure to the discovery process. The rules of evidence and lend guidance and help limit discovery. This is, of course an oversimplification of the process but you get the idea.
What can I ask for in discovery and how In a civil suit each party can ask the other side for documents and information. Documents are obtained through Requests to Produce. These requests also reach electronically stored information or ESI. Other information can be obtained through written questions called Interrogatories or orally through a deposition or both. Parties can also verify certain facts by asking the other side to admit them in Requests for Admissions.
Can I ask someone outside the lawsuit for documents In some cases the party holding key information may not be part of the lawsuit. Discovery can be obtained from these non-parties or third parties through a deposition or document request without a deposition. But Interrogatories and Requests for Admissions cannot be used with a third party. Those may only be directed to another party in a lawsuit.
How does discovery actually work Discovery takes time to complete. Large blocks of time are purposely built into our discovery rules. This is Sometimes why lawsuits take so long. But I believe the time intentionally injected into discovery allows the parties to gain perspective over the dispute. That time also allows cooler heads to prevail as the saying goes.
After sending a discovery request to another party you normally have to wait at least 30 days for a response. This can even be longer depending on the circumstances. Discovery requests may also require the intervention of the judge. That can delay the process as you wait for a hearing date. It can also increase the expenses of the lawsuit.
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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.