What does interrogatory mean in legal terms?

Answered by James Kissner

Interrogatory in legal terms refers to a crucial component of the discovery process in a civil action. It is a formal written set of questions that one party (the interrogating party) sends to the other party (the responding party) as part of the pre-trial phase. These questions are aimed at obtaining information and facts relevant to the case from the opposing party. The responding party is required to answer the interrogatories under oath, usually within a specific time frame set by the court.

The purpose of interrogatories is to facilitate the exchange of information between the parties involved in a lawsuit. It allows each party to gather facts, identify potential witnesses, and obtain evidence to support their claims or defenses. Interrogatories serve as a means to discover relevant information that may not be readily available or easily accessible to the opposing party.

The content of interrogatories can vary widely depending on the nature of the case and the specific issues in dispute. The interrogating party may seek information on a range of topics, including but not limited to:

1. Background information: Interrogatories often begin with basic background questions to establish the identity, contact information, and relationship of the responding party to the case. This may include inquiries about employment history, educational background, or prior legal actions.

2. Facts and events: Interrogatories may delve into the specific facts and events surrounding the case. These questions aim to elicit details about the incident or circumstances leading to the legal dispute. For example, in a personal injury case, the interrogatories may ask about the date, time, and location of the incident, as well as the injuries sustained.

3. Witness information: Interrogatories may ask for the names, addresses, and contact information of witnesses who have relevant knowledge or may have witnessed the events in question. This helps each party identify potential witnesses and prepare for trial.

4. Documentary evidence: Interrogatories may inquire about the existence and location of documents, such as contracts, emails, medical records, or financial statements, that support the claims or defenses in the case. This allows the interrogating party to identify and request the production of relevant documents during the discovery process.

5. Legal theories and defenses: Interrogatories may also seek information regarding the legal theories and defenses that the responding party intends to rely on during the trial. This helps the interrogating party understand and evaluate the opposing party’s legal arguments.

It is important to note that the responding party is obligated to provide truthful and complete answers to the interrogatories. Failure to do so can result in sanctions imposed by the court, such as fines or adverse inferences against the non-compliant party. Moreover, the answers provided in interrogatories are typically considered binding and may be used as evidence during trial.

In my own experience as a legal professional, I have seen interrogatories play a significant role in uncovering crucial information and shaping the course of a lawsuit. They provide an opportunity for parties to obtain relevant facts, narrow the issues, and potentially reach a settlement before proceeding to trial. Interrogatories can be an effective tool in building a strong case strategy and ensuring that all parties have access to the necessary information to present their claims or defenses effectively.

Interrogatories are a fundamental part of the discovery process in a civil action. They allow parties to obtain information, gather evidence, and better understand the opposing party’s position. By answering interrogatories under oath, the responding party provides crucial information that can influence the outcome of a lawsuit.