What are the different types of Discovery?

Individuals who file lawsuits often have to engage in the tedious process of discovery. The majority of lawsuits filed require one or both parties to engage in discovery. If individuals are pro se (i.e., without an attorney), he/she may be confused with the types of discovery that can be used.

What are the most common discovery methods?

Deposition

A deposition is the out-of-court oral testimony of a witness that is reduced to writing for later use. In other words, an individual is subject to answer questions under oath for the purpose of gathering more information to prepare for trial. An individual will likely want to depose an individual who is privy to some information relating to the lawsuit. For example, let’s say an individual is suing a grocery store for a slip and fall. If the grocery store is denying liability because the floor was clean, you may choose to depose the janitorial staff as to when the last time he/she cleaned the floor. The janitorial staff would have to respond to all of your questions under oath. That evidence can be used later to gather more evidence and prepare for trial.

Written Interrogatories

Written interrogatories are a set of written questions propounded by one party and are required to be answered by the opposing party in order to clarify matters of fact and help prepare for trial. The opposing party must answer all questions in writing within a certain deadline or possibly face sanctions. The opposing party must also verify the answers to the interrogatories.

The pros to using this type of discovery are that this method produces information fairly quick and is probably one of the cheaper forms of discovery.

The cons to using this type of discovery are that the opposing party can object to certain questions and refuse to answer the interrogatory. Then you are forced to go to a judge and demand an answer. The opposing party is also not required to answer interrogatories under oath like a deposition. Additionally, there are sometimes limits on how many interrogatories you can serve on the opposing party.

Request for Production of Documents

A request for production of documents is a legal request for the opposing party to produce certain documents that contain information pertaining to the lawsuit. Request for production of documents is similar to written interrogatories in that one party submits a written request to the opposing party stating what documents they want. The opposing party must produce all requested documents within a deadline or possibly face sanctions.

For example, if you were suing an individual for breach of contract, you would request that the opposing party turn over the signed contract and any documents relating to that contract. The opposing party would have to produce a copy of the signed contract within a deadline or face sanctions.

Request for Admissions

A request for admissions is a set of written statements sent to the opposing party for the purpose of having them admit or deny the statements or allegations therein. A request for admissions is a list of questions, which are similar in some respects to interrogatories, but different in form and purpose. Each “question” is in the form of a declarative statement, which the opposing party must then admit, deny, or state in detail why he/she can neither admit nor deny the truthfulness of the statement. While an interrogatory would ask, “please identify whether Mrs. Smith struck the Plaintiff,” a request for admission would state, “Mrs. Smith struck the Plaintiff with her car.” The opposing party would have to admit or deny the truth of that statement.

A positive to using request for admissions is that it gets the opposing party to admit to certain facts in your complaint. Another positive is that the opposing party gets thirty (30) days to respond to the request for admissions. If the opposing party does not respond within thirty (30) days, the admissions are deemed admitted. Therefore, whether or not the opposing party admits/denies the statements, they are all deemed admitted. You can use the admitted statements against the opposing party, which can be extremely beneficial to your case.

It is important to remember that with these discovery methods come procedural requirements that can be confusing. It is important to know all requirements before selecting a particular discovery method.