Litigation: Interrogatories

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The first, commonly-used discovery tool is a document containing written Interrogatories.  Interrogatories are just questions in written form, addressed to the opposing party with a direction to answer the questions under oath in the time provided by the relevant rule.  The party serving the Interrogatories must leave ample space between the questions for the responding party to answer.  By rule, a party may serve up to Fifty (50) Interrogatories upon another party in one or more sets.  If the party wishes to submit more than Fifty (50) Interrogatories, it must seek the Court=s permission.  

Interrogatories typically include a set of definitions which apply to the entire body of the document.  Attorneys do this so there can be no confusion as to what the attorney is asking for in the question.  For example, if the litigation involves real property or the Estate of a Decedent, then the party needs to specifically define those phrases:  123 Cherry Tree Lane, Morehead City, North Carolina 28557; Estate of John Johnson, Carteret County Estate File 11 E 100.  By being specific and precise in regards to the terms used in the written discovery, the other party is not left guessing as to the meaning of the question and as a result has less of a basis to avoid giving a solid answer to the question. 

However, while important to be specific and explicit with the meaning of the terms used, the questions themselves are usually broad, open-ended questions.  This is done so that the opposing party will produce as much relevant, discoverable information as possible in the party=s own words.  If the litigant were to ask a very narrow, specific question, the opposing party could answer the question with a simple No without going into any further detail.  This is because when answering discovery questions, a party is only required to answer the specific question that is asked.  He or she is not required to offer up additional information which is not requested, or to answer the question the other party meant to ask.  In other words, a party is only entitled to what he or she explicitly asks for in the interrogatory.  If the interrogatories do not address specific matters which are known to the Defendant and otherwise discoverable, then the Defendant need not give that information to the Plaintiff.  For that reason, attorneys attempt to be as broad as possible when phrasing interrogatories, so as to discover the maximum amount of information possible.


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