What Are Interrogatories, Requests to Produce, and Admissions?
In civil lawsuits, the parties obtain and exchange information in a process called “discovery”. This is very different from criminal cases where the police investigate and the prosecutor brings a case based on that evidence and has to disclose it to the defense. In civil cases, the proponent of an allegation has the obligation to devleop the evidence to prove that allegation and obtains it through the process of discovery.
Discovery in civil disputes takes on two basic forms; what lawyers call “paper discovery”, and the “other stuff”. Paper discovery actually isn’t paper anymore, but it is the series of requests provided for by our Florida procedural rules that includes interrogatories, requests to produce, and requests for admissions. The “other stuff” is discovery aside from these requests, such as depositions and inspections of property or equipment.
Interrogatories are only exchanged between the actual parties in a lawsuit, i.e. plaintiff and defendant. They essentially are just written questions to the other. They are limited in number, but Judges usually allow more if there is good reason. A party’s lawyer will normally draft the answers with the party and they are sworn to under oath.
Requests to Produce
Requests to produce ask for documents or categories of documents, including electronic documents and data. In addition to being directed at the other party in a suit, in a slightly different form, they can also be used to non-parties so they don’t have to appear at a deposition just to deliver documents. Unlike interrogatories, these are not limited, but your lawyer will first assess whether there are objections to the requests and what should be produced. Because these are regularly used in lawsuits, this is why parties can not now just delete data or throw away computers or devices when they are served with a lawsuit or litigation hold notice.
Requests for Admissions
Requests for admissions, like interrogatories, only go between the parties. They ask a party to admit or deny some specific fact so it doesn’t have to be proven later. Again, these are to be answered with your attorney as they have far-reaching implications in a case. Admitting a fact admits it for all purposes, but wrongfully denying a fact carries consequences as well. Therefore, the best person to assess these requests with you is obviously your attorney.
Timing of Discovery
Sometimes these discovery requests will come with the lawsuit. In such scenario, you want to be sure to provide those to your attorney and let him or her know that you received those with the suit. For certain requests, admissions for example, failure to timely respond can actually admit the requests so you don’t want to leave your attorney in the dark and think those requests don’t matter.
There is no right or wrong time to employ these discovery requests either. Sometimes they are done at the beginning of the suit, sometimes toward the end, sometimes they are used several times in different phases of discovery and sometimes they are even coupled with other discovery mechanisms like depositions.
The takeaway is that parties in a civil lawsuit use discovery to gather evidence to prove their case and the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure dictate what discovery mechanisms are available. Therefore, someone who intimately knows those Rules should be in your corner drafting and responding to discovery requests. Going it along is not a good idea and you know what they say about those who represent themselves. . .
About the Author
A Board Certified expert in business litigation by the Florida Bar, David Steinfeld, Esq. is the owner of the Law Office of David Steinfeld in Palm Beach Gardens – http://www.thepalmbeachbusinesslawyer.com. As a member of the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists, Mr. Steinfeld keeps on top of e-discovery developments and also teaches Judges, lawyers, and paralegals how to perform e-discovery. He is AV-Preeminent rated by Martindale-Hubbell, 10.0-Superb rated by AVVO, and was highlighted as “One to Watch” for 2014 by Attorney-at-Law Magazine. He has been named one of Florida’s Legal Elite for 2012, 2013 and 2015, recognized as one of the top business lawyers in Florida by The Legal Network for 2013, 2014, and 2015, and was selected for inclusion in the list of Florida Super Lawyers for 2014 and 2015.
Mr. Steinfeld is the incoming Vice Chair of the Florida Bar Board Certification Committee for business litigation and is the current Chair of the Palm Beach County Bar’s Business Litigation CLE Committee. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the North County Section of the Palm Beach Bar and was appointed by the Florida Supreme Court to its Committee on Business and Contract Jury Instructions. He is an invited Fellow in the Litigation Counsel of America and a full Professor of Law at Dankook University Law School in South, Korea. Informative videos and articles are available for free at thepalmbeachbusinesslawyer.com.
The Law Office of David Steinfeld –
Tel: (561) 316-7905