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Lawyers and Lawsuits

Lawsuits

What are the common tools of discovery?

After the basic pleadings—the complaint and answer—have been filed, each side enters the discovery process. The common tools of discovery are: interrogatories, depositions, requests for production of documents, requests for admissions and requests for examinations.

Interrogatories are written questions about a case submitted by one party to the other. Interrogatories must be answered under oath by the other party. Commonly asked interrogatories inquire about witnesses that are likely to be called by the other side, questions about persons familiar with the allegations and the existence of any documents that might prove or disprove part of a case. Other interrogatories may inquire about the financial status of a party and the names and addresses of all witnesses to key events in the lawsuit.

Depositions are live questionings of a party or potential witness under oath, usually in one of the attorney’s offices. The attorney asks questions and the party or prospective witnesses answer questions. If a plaintiff or defendant is deposed, he or she will have his or her attorney present to object to certain questions. Deposition testimony is important for many reasons. First of all, most of it (unless there is an objection) is admissible at trial. Attorneys often try to show a disconnect between a party’s deposition testimony and his or her trial testimony. If a person testifies differently at trial than he or she did at her deposition, then the opposing attorney will show that difference to the jury and try to weaken that person’s credibility.

Requests for production of documents are another key discovery tool. Parties can use this tool to attempt to gain access to the premises of the other party in order to inspect, take photographs and copy key materials. Other times this request forces the other side to turn over key reports or documents.



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