Q What are interrogatories?
Once a lawsuit is filed in a civil case seeking damages for personal injuries or wrongful death, an experienced trial lawyer wastes no time in commencing discovery in preparing the lawyer’s case on behalf of the client against the defendant. In Idaho, discovery is comprised largely of four different forms, namely: (1) Interrogatories, (2) Requests for Production of Documents, (3) Requests for Admissions, and (5) Depositions. In the case of a defendant who is sued by a plaintiff seeking damages for personal injury, the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure also allow the defendant to retain a physician to perform a so-called "independent medical examination" or IME. The next five (5) series of blogs, addresses each one of these discovery tools.
Generally speaking, once a complaint has been filed, the parties are allowed to present discovery requests to the other party to the lawsuit with the limitation that each inquiry be limited in scope to matters that are reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence that is not otherwise privileged.
INTERROGATORIES ALLOWS A PARTY TO PRESENT QUESTIONS THAT THE OTHER PARTY MUST ANSWER UPON OATH AND UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY.
The Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure allows a party to serve questions upon the other party that the responding party must provide "upon oath" and under penalty of perjury. The oath administered to the responding party is the same oath or affirmation that any witness is given prior to rendering testimony in a court of law. Essentially the responding party is required to verifiy that the answers given to each interrogatory is true to the best of the witness’ knowledge information and belief. The questions posed are called, "Interrogatories."
IN IDAHO, THE NUMBER OF INTERROGATORIES PERMISSIBLE ARE LIMITED IN NUMBER TO 40 INCLUDING SUBPARTS.
In Idaho, a party is limited to serving only 40 interrogatories in number, including subparts, upon the other party in the lawsuit unless the parties agree by stipulation to a larger number or the Court issues an order enlarging the number of interrogatories beyond that limitation.
IF A PARTY RENDERS INCONSISTENT TESTIMONY, THE ANSWERS TO THE INTERROGATORIES CAN BE USED TO DISCREDIT THE PARTY OR PARTY’S WITNESS AS UNRELIABLE.
Interrogatories allow a party to seek information regarding facts that suport the party’s position regarding the issues set forth in the complaint or answer filed in the lawsuit. Since the answers are sworn upon oath, if the answering party changes the party’s answers at trial, the answers to the interrogatories can be used to impeach or otherwise discredit the party’s credibility by showing at trial that the answering party’s responses to the interrogatories are inconsistent and, therefore, unreliable. that the testimony rendered at trial is unreliable give the inconsistent statements rendered under oath.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE REPONDING PARTY’S ANSWERS ARE INCOMPLETE OR EVASIVE?
If the responding party’s answers to the inquiring party’s interrogatories are vague or ambiguous, the inquiring party may file a motion for a court order requiring the responding party to provide full and complete answers to the interrogatories rendered. If the responding party fails to abide by the Court’s order, the inquiring party may seek sanctions against the responding party, which sanctions may include reasonable attorney fees and costs associated with the preparing, filing and argument of the motion and in some cases dismissal of the case or in the case of a defendant an order striking the defendant’s answer to the complaint and the entry of a default judgment.
INTERROGATORIES TYPICALLY ADDRESS BOTH LIABILITY AND DAMAGES IN A CIVIL CASE.
In the case of a plaintiff filing a lawsuit for personal injuries, the first set of interrogatories served upon the defendant typically address the facts that support the claims set forth in the Complaint against the Defendant for the purpose of obtaining information allowing the plaintiff to file a motion for summary judgment or partial summary judgment.
Additional interrogatories may follow addressing any defenses the defendant asserts in the defendant’s answer defendant to allow the plaintiff to prepare any rebuttal testimony and evidence to address and defeat the defendant’s denials and affirmative defenses set forth in defendant’s answer.
Another purpose of interrogatories is to solicit information to determine what facts remain at issue should the case proceed to trial. By using interrogatories, a skillful attorney may be able to limit the issues to be determined at trial thereby signficantly reducing the costs of the trial and/or setting up the defendant for having to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees if the defendant’s answers to Plaintiff’s interrogatories were rendered in bad faith.
By using interrogatories, the plaintiff can limit the necessity in some cases of having to retain expert witnesses to facts in the case to which there is no genuine dispute.
Interrogatories help a plaintiff enhance the plaintiff’s ability to settle the case by way of obtaining admissions from the opposing party that demonstrate the weaknesses in Defendant’s position and by demonstrating the strength of the plaintiff’s case. Interrogatories also help the plaintiff determine what information the plaintiff’s attorney needs to develop for trial by preparing cross-examination of the defendant and defendant’s witnesses and to otherwise prepare rebuttal testimony and evidence should the case proceed to trial.
Interrogatories are a useful tool in helping the plaintiff prove the plaintiff’s case and can enhance the resolution of the case by way of settlement negotiations and/or mediation.
Why does Mr. Morton share this information with you? In order to help you better uderstand the litigation process associated with persuing your legal rights and remedies.
BOISE TRIAL LAWYER ALAN MORTON HAS OVER 32 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE IN HELPING VICTIMS OF PERSONAL INJURY AND WRONGFUL DEATH RECOVER DAMAGES CAUSED BY OTHER PEOPLE AND INSTITUTIONS.
If you or a loved one have incurred personal injuries or damages due to the negligence or responsibility of another person or institution, you should contact an experienced trial lawyer to schedule a free initial consultation. Boise Trial Lawyer Alan Morton is available to meet with you at his office or your home, workplace, hospital or any other convenient location to help you better understand your legal rights and remedies. His personal goal and objective is to provide his clients with outstanding service. You can reach Mr. Morton at 208.344.5555, toll free at 888.716.8021 or by completing an online contact form. Mr. Morton has over 32 years of experience in helping victims of personal injury and wrongful death recover compensation for the injuries and damages they have incurred due to no fault of their own.