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What are Interrogatories and How Do I Answer Them?

Employment Law

16 minute read

Welcome to CLBL today we’re gonna talk about answering interrogatories. What is an interrogatory? Interrogatory is a written question to you or your opponent in which you or your opponent is to provide a written answer. We’re gonna focus on the answers, not the interrogatories or preparing the interrogatories themselves. First can you refuse the answer? No, you absolutely must answer the interrogatories. If you don't the other side can bring you in front of the court, seek sanctions for not answering including either the dismissal of your claim or if you're a defendant the dismissal of your answer leading to entry of judgment against you, a very dangerous place to be but what you can do is you can refuse to answer specific interrogatories as your answer. In other words you answer the set say there’s 20 interrogatories asked of you of those 20 5 are objectionable then you can refuse to answer them if you have a legally valid objection- not i don't like the question or they’ve got the info themselves they can go get it they have it themselves in their own records or they can get it themselves that’s not a valid objection. A VO is communications with counsel, something your attorney/ spouse/preacher told you then you don't have to disclose. Or you may not understand what the interrogatory is they’re very hard to draft and if you don't understand what it is you can say I don't really understand what it is asking and maybe you give your own spin as to what it’s asking and answer what you understand it to be. Best place to look is at the rules of evidence to see if it's in violation of any of the ROE or any of these privileges or if it's wholly irrelevant. Say you’re being sued for BOC in the purchase of a car and the interrogatories ask you about your child's daycare has nothing to do with your damages or car then you can object and say it's irrelevant or not likely to lead to relevant information, this is intended simply to harass and embarrass me, that would be a valid objection to the interrogatories. Are your responses important? Extremely because they bring you and what you answer as interrogatories can be used throughout the whole litigation, judgment, and it can be used at trial. You could be asked questions on the stand and if you change testimony from what you state in interrogatories your interrogatory responses can be used to impeach you. Remember when you answer interrogatories your signing them under oath, the same oath your taking at court so if your in front of the jury and your asked a question and you answer the question differently the opposition can bring your interrogatories and say well we asked you the same q and under the same oath you said this- a very embarrassing situation so be very careful in answering interrogatories. Also leaving out info can be hurtful to u, the other side later could go well we asked you to give all the info surrounding the BOC and you only gave us 3, now you’ve given us an additional 5 you never disclosed those- they could go to the court and ask them to exclude those 5 reasons ort say they never existed because you didn't disclose them before and your making them up now, even though you knew them and your perhaps not being careful in your answering and you should have included them but you weren't thinking. Slow down and answer them thoroughly, it's 1 of those tricky places that can come back and bite you later on in the case. How do I draft reponses? Like all pleadings you start with the pleading head, name of the court, case number, the parties, response to the interrogatories and the interrogatories are numbered and your answers follow that. Usually you restate the interrogatory and then say your answer and you first start off with if you have objections and you get absurd objections-it's overboard, it’s harassing but despite that i’ll still answer it, so you preserve your objection and you answer it, or you could just object and not answer it or not object and answer the interrogatory- and at the end you have to sign it saying ‘signed under pains and penalty of perjury’, that these are true/correct statements. And then of course proof of service at the end which you say you served it on all the parties of the action. So after you answer them you have to serve your answer to many parties so if there’s multiple parties and 1 party serves you the interrogatories everybody gets a copy of your answers and everyone can use those responses in any fashion they deem appropriate and permissible under law. There are time limits, usually 45 days to answer interrogatories, the other side is often willing to grant additional time because they’;re difficult to answer and they expect the same courtesy back. But if a party has to go to court to get you to answer the court can order that you have to answer interrogatories without any objections and if you don't answer the court can take away your right to object and force you to answer and that may be a difficult situation to be in. a court can also grant financial sanctions against you for not answering, the cost of bringing the motion, or in some states iuf a party follows certain steps they can get your case dismissed for failure to answer. That of course is the worst situation. Either your case is dismissed or if you're the defendant your answer/defense is dismissed. If you provide incomplete answers the other side can call you up and say hey uir answers r incomplete you should have given us more info on this or this interrogatory asked for this or that, work w them. More often than not it’s best to go back and say ok i may disagree with you but i'll go and supplement it out more cb of they go to court and say you provided incomplete answers then you have taken a very hard line and the court could hold that against you but if you try to cooperate/supplement the court might look sympathetically upon u- you might have tried to do the right thing and the other side is being unreasonable. Again in front of the court it's always about who's reasonable, courts and judges tend to look most favorably upon the most reasonable party. At a later date may you revise your interrogatories? Absolutely you can provide what are called supplemental responses. Things happen, you get additional info, things come out in deposition, you receive additional documents, you learn something from another source, you can go back and supplement it. In some courts you’re required to go back and supplement if you get new information to bring them current. If you change your interrogatory substantially then that’s can do it but the other side may comment on it at trial if it works for them to show your story changing. So you just want to be careful about what you do in the supplements. As with your original interrogatories, make sure your supplemental interrogatories are signed under the pains and penalties of perjury. Do not delay in supplementing interrogatories. Iof you find new facts do it right away because you could supplement many times with new facts, you don't wanna be in the position of being accused of unreasonably delaying in supplementing your interrogatories. Like doc requests and depositions, interrogatories are very powerful discovery tools and in responding to them be careful. Thank you.

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