Drafting Interrogatories

The following is a blog post from the CEB (Continuing Education of the Bar) on the subject of how to draft interrogatories:

7 Rules for Drafting Interrogatories

Enjoy!

It is always good to be reminded of the basics.

Published in: on October 14, 2013 at 8:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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Discovery Outside the Rules

Here’s another great post from CEB Blog regarding discovery.  This post discusses informal discovery techniques.

Discovery Outside the Rules

Published in: on January 25, 2013 at 8:06 am  Comments (1)  
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Discovery – Depositions (The Paralegal’s Part)

Depositions, as we discussed in the last post, can be taken of parties or non-parties.  Any of the parties may attend the deposition of any witness whether or not they asked for the deposition.  Typically, the one who noticed the deposition pays for it and has first “shot” at the witness although all the lawyers and parties in pro per have a chance to ask questions since a witness many only be deposed once under most circumstances.

The paralegal may be involved in all or some of these aspects of the preparation for the deposition:

  • Send notices
  • Serve Subpoenas on non-party witness
  • Prepare Notice to Produce Documents
  • Arrange location
  • Schedule Court Reporter
  • Prepare an outline of topics/questions for the deposition
  • Copy and organize exhibits to be referred to
  • Prepare client for Deposition
  • Take notes at the deposition
  • Summarize Deposition Transcript

One thing the paralegal in California cannot ethically do is take the deposition.

Discovery – Depositions (Part 2)

As discussed in our first post on Depositions, the statutes governing the taking of depositions in California are found in the California Code of Civil Procedure.

Some of the basics of are:

  • Depositions can be taken of both parties and non-parties.
  • A notice of deposition must be served on a party at least 10 days prior to the date the party is to appear, and if the party is required to bring documents, the notice must be at least 20 days.  Five days are added if the notices are mailed.
  •  With a non-party, the witness has to be served with a subpoena to appear in addition to the notice of deposition.  A non-party witness is also entitled to a witness fee and mileage.
  • The location of the deposition must be within 75 miles of the deponent’s residence or within the county where the action is filed and within 150 miles of the deponent’s residence.
  • The deposition is typically recorded by a court reporter.  It is also possible to have video-taping, but the notice of deposition must include that information.

Discovery – Depositions (Part 1)

Depositions are not the least expensive discovery device, but they can yield very valuable information that paper discovery cannot.

  • For example, they allow the attorneys get a feel for the witness and how effective he or she is under the pressure of questioning.  The deposition is more informal than the trial, but the witness is still under oath.  At the deposition, both sides are able to:
  • to see the witness
  • hear the witness
  • test the witness’ ability to testify under pressure
  • find out how the witness intends to answer contentions made in the lawsuit

For the litigator, the deposition may be the first time to size up the witness for credibility and competency.  If the witness is weak or lacking in credibility or competency, it will affect settlement of the case.  If the witness is strong, competent and believable, it will also affect settlement.  These factors help the attorneys involved to set a value on the case.

The statutes governing depositions are found in the California Code of Civil Procedure.

Paralegal Essentials – Contention Interrogatories

There is a sub-set of Special Interrogatories known as Contention Interrogatories.  Proper drafting this type of interrogatory is very important for discovery.  It is part art and part science.  The following is a good article which gives some valuable information and samples of this type of interrogatory.  The one drawback is that it is written for plaintiff’s counsel.   As with all information, you must filter and apply it to the type of work you are doing at the time.  Not everything will be applicable or helpful.

Everything the Plaintiff’s Lawyer Needs to Know About Contention Interrogatories

Discovery: Objections

Here’s a good discussion of some of the more common discovery objections by CEB.

Shoot Back with 10 Discovery Objections

Discovery – Declaration for Additional Discovery

When you have more Special Interrogatories than the allowable 35, you must send a Declaration for Additional Discovery along with the Special Interrogatories when you serve them.  Sample language for this declaration is found in the California Code of Civil Procedure section 2030.050:

DECLARATION FOR ADDITIONAL DISCOVERY

I, __________, declare:
1. I am (a party to this action or proceeding appearing in propria
persona) (presently the attorney for __________, a party to this
action or proceeding).
2. I am propounding to __________ the attached set of
interrogatories.
3. This set of interrogatories will cause the total number of
specially prepared interrogatories propounded to the party to whom
they are directed to exceed the number of specially prepared
interrogatories permitted by Section 2030.030 of the Code of Civil
Procedure.
4. I have previously propounded a total of __________
interrogatories to this party, of which __________ interrogatories
were not official form interrogatories.
5. This set of interrogatories contains a total of __________
specially prepared interrogatories.
6. I am familiar with the issues and the previous discovery
conducted by all of the parties in the case.
7. I have personally examined each of the questions in this set of
interrogatories.
8. This number of questions is warranted under Section 2030.040 of
the Code of Civil Procedure because __________. (Here state each
factor described in Section 2030.040 that is relied on, as well as
the reasons why any factor relied on is applicable to the instant
lawsuit.)
9. None of the questions in this set of interrogatories is being
propounded for any improper purpose, such as to harass the party, or
the attorney for the party, to whom it is directed, or to cause
unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation.
I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of California
that the foregoing is true and correct, and that this declaration was
executed on __________.

_____________
(Signature)
Attorney for_____________________________________

Discovery – Request for Production of documents (aka RPD)

In addition to the interrogatories (Special, Form and Supplemental), another inexpensive discovery device is the Demand (or Request) for Production of Documents which is sometimes called the Demand (Request) for Inspection of Documents.

This device can also be used for inspection of real property such as the location of an accident, site of a slip and fall or to inspect a structure for a defect or dangerous condition.  It can also be used to request the testing or sampling of things.  The most common use, however, is to obtain documents which support the other party’s claim or which they may have in their possession and control.

Typically, the time to respond to a Demand for Inspection is 30 days plus 5 additional days if served via mail.

The requests for inspection and copying of documents are made pursuant to California Code of Civil Procedure section 2031.010 et. seq. (and following).  This device is available to obtain documents and tangible things from both a party and a non-party.

If you seek documents and/or tangible things from a non-party, you must use a Business Records Subpoena.

Another important issue that comes up with a document production request is obtaining electronic data.  The discovery of ESI (Electronically-stored information) is called E-Discovery and is an important and expanding area for lawyers and paralegals.

Discovery – Supplemental Interrogatories

We have talked about Form Interrogatories and Special Interrogatories, but what about Supplemental Interrogatories?

Supplemental responses to interrogatories may be requested during litigation after the responses have been served.  If considerable time and/or additional discovery has occurred, a party may ask another party to supplement their original responses with any additional information and/or responses.  This type of request is referred to as “Supplemental Interrogatories.”  This is not a separate category of interrogatory, but rather a request for supplemental or up-dated responses to the interrogatories (whether form or special) already served and responded to earlier in the discovery process.

California Code of Civil Procedure section 2030.070. (a) provides:  ” In addition to the number of interrogatories permitted by Sections 2030.030 and 2030.040, a party may propound a supplemental interrogatory to elicit any later acquired information bearing on all answers previously made by any party in response to interrogatories.”

Sub-section (b) goes on to provide: “A party may propound a supplemental interrogatory twice before the initial setting of a trial date, and, subject to the time limits on discovery proceedings and motions provided in Chapter 8
(commencing with Section 2024.010), once after the initial setting of a trial date.”

More information regarding Supplemental Interrogatories can be found in the California Code of Civil Procedure.

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