Welcome to part one of our 5-part series on discoveries in Texas Court. As you learned from the introduction, the discovery process is an important part of the civil procedure that obtains evidence from other parties prior to the trial. One of the devices used in this collection of evidence is "Interrogatories."
The purpose of interrogatories is to gain clear, specific answers from all parties involved in the case. The questions are submitted in writing and must be answered in writing and under oath (Telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God). Note that telling a lie while under oath is grounds for perjury. The questions consist of legal theories and are individually tailored to facts based on the party's claim. The questions are limited (15 in a Level 1 case and 25 in a level 2 case) and aim to narrow the focus of the case to facilitate a short and smooth trial.
For example, a man walks down the street and is hit with an out-of-control scrap of construction debris, so he claims negligence on the construction company. The injured party might serve interrogatories on the defendant construction company to support the plaintiff's theory. If the plaintiff alleges the construction zone was unmarked, he might ask the defendant about warning sign postings in the area. If the plaintiff alleges malfunctioning equipment, the plaintiff could ask questions regarding the quality or compliance status of the equipment. The defense can also use interrogatories to help build legal and factual defenses, like seeking information on the plaintiff's mental state at the time of the incident or the precise source of the debris.
Navigating the law can be fun and exciting. As with many matters relating to law, creative solutions exist. The responding party may tell the other side where the requested information can be found in public records, rather than answering the questions outright. Might as well make more work for the opposing team.
Interrogatories are just the beginning of the discovery process. The procedure continues with "request for production," which we'll cover next time. And again, if you believe you are involved in a situation that requires legal action, please call Reich and Binstock today.