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DEALING WITH WRITTEN DISCOVERY AS A PARTY IN A LAWSUIT

DEALING WITH WRITTEN DISCOVERY AS A PARTY IN A LAWSUIT

One of the tougher challenges in any lawsuit is handling the discovery involved.  I have previously written about depositions, which are a distinct part of discovery.  Depositions, which involve asking parties and witnesses questions under oath with answers being recorded, actually follow the written discovery.  This written discovery is the exchange of questions and answers and requests for production of tangible things (primarily documents) and the production.  It is a time when the parties must be involved in assisting lawyers with answers to questions and production. This is in any kind of case: Personal Injury car accident cases, family court cases, contract disputes, etc  Due to the substantial involvement of parties in Discovery, it’s important to understand the dynamics.

 

       The first part of written discovery may (but not always) involve “requests to admit” (RTA) questions of the opposing party.  Important to know about RTA is that they must be answered and served back to the other party (or attorney if represented) within 30 days. If not, and similar to defaulting in not answering a complaint in 30 days, the questions are deemed admitted before the Court. They must be answered in 30 days or the effect will be catastrophic for the case.  In answering the first mandate is to be truthful.  At the same time, the party is not required to go beyond the question asked, but can caveat the answer to leave wiggle room.  This is good to send to the other side as it pins them down on certain issues throughout the litigation.

 

        The “Interrogatories” are questions parties send to each other, in which the other side must answer.  The SC Rules of Civil Procedure offer “standard” interrogatories, which include witnesses, including contact and a summary of testimony to be offered and expert witnesses and associated reports.  Important to note is that if witnesses and/or experts are not named during discovery, they will likely be barred from testifying at trial. Parties are limited in the number of questions they ask, but the questions only have to be likely to lead to relevant information, and therefore can cover a great deal.  Answers can be supplemented if more information becomes available, and parties can ask further questions as more information becomes available.

 

        The “Requests to Produce” (RTP) can be quite labor intensive and frustrating depending upon the case and request.  In a manufacturing defects case, it might involve literally millions of pages of documents.  Most cases aren’t that onerous with production, but you can get they point of the tedious nature of finding and reviewing substantial numbers of documents to produce to the other side.  For both Interrogatories and RTP, the party receiving has 30 days to answer, or be hauled in to court on a motion for the Court to Compel discovery from the side who has not produced it.

 

       Sometimes, parties will withhold information/production due to objections about what was asked or requested.  For example, parties cannot request discovery the includes attorney-client privilege or work-product privilege.  There are other objections, and these usually go before a judge to make a ruling of whether or party must answer. 

 

       It’s important for the client to be intimately involved in the process of discovery, and ensuring his attorney is fulfilling discovery requests properly and diligently. What transpires during discovery sets up the case to win!

 

 

Bill Connor Orangeburg Attorney Bill Connor received his Bachelor of Arts from The Citadel in 1990, and after serving for over a decade as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army, including three deployments to the Middle East, he received his Juris Doctorate from The University of South Carolina in 2005. In 2012, Bill was honored to receive an AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rating by Martindale-Hubbell®, the top peer rating for American lawyers. Receiving this rating at such an early point in his career is unheard of among lawyers.