Discovery is why your civil lawsuit takes so long. It’s the cooperative process of exchanging information between parties in a lawsuit, which can take months or sometimes years. The purpose of discovery is so that a case can be judged fairly on the facts and not due to a “surprise” document that the opposing party withheld until the last minute.
Basically, discovery makes things fair.
Your attorney will request discovery from the opposing party. The opposing party will request discovery from your attorney. Legal rules called the Rules of Civil Procedure govern the timing and delivery of responses. As a client, you might be asked to help answer discovery questions from the other party or to give your attorney some documents to allow the other party to examine.
There are three main types of discovery requests that might require client input: requests for admission, requests for production, and interrogatories.
Requests for Admission. This type of discovery request comes in the form of statements that you must admit or deny. You can also say that you don’t know or don’t have enough information to answer the question. Here are examples:
- Admit or deny that you are the managing partner of Local Business.
- Admit or deny that Local Business signed a contract with Widget Corporation LLC on May 12, 2008.
Requests for Production. This type of discovery request is primarily for documents. You have probably given your attorney most of the documents related to your case, but the opposing party might ask for more.
- Produce all originals of and all copies of all contracts signed by you and Widget Corporation LLC since 2006.
- Produce all communication (including letters, emails, texts, and other electronic documents) between you and Widget Corporation LLC concerning contracts since 2006.
Interrogatories. This type of discovery request usually comes in the form of an open-ended request for information, requiring a response beyond a simple yes or no. You might initially be asked to answer these questions and then to approve the final answers your attorney has written.
- Describe the safety, storage, and maintenance methods and practices regarding Widgets that you maintained in your regular course of business.
- Identify all persons formerly or currently employed by you who have or might have knowledge of Widget safety procedures.
As you can see from these basic examples, discovery can become very involved. Your part is to be as forthright with your attorney as possible and to disclose all relevant information promptly to your attorney. He or she will very likely have additional instructions or requests for you to supplement discovery responses as your lawsuit progresses. If you ever have questions about your lawsuit, ask them!
Remember, folks, at the end of the day there’s no substitute for having a lawyer of your own.
As always, our blog posts are not legal advice and do not constitute an attorney-client relationship!