What does the legal term “discovery” really mean?

Gavel of Justice

The names of the discovery methods may differ from  state to state, but most fall into the following categories:

Interrogatories: These are written questions regarding the transaction between the parties, which must be answered under oath.

Request to Admit: In this document, certain facts are alleged. The responding party must either admit or deny these statements.  If admitted, then those factual issues are resolved.  In some cases, if this discovery tool is ignored and not answered, all of the Requests may be  deemed admitted.  This may pave the way for a judgment to be entered, as there will be no apparent defense to the case.

Request for Production of Documents: This is a mechanism whereby one party requests the other party to produce the documentation they have to support their case, and which might be ultimately admissible at trial.

Bill of Particulars: A debtor’s attorney would typically request this of the creditor’s attorney. This is normally a set of questions that must be answered in a short amount of time, commonly 10 days. It may ask questions like: What was the agreement? Who entered into it, and when? What was sold? Was there work done and if so, when? Basically, it will be aimed at getting the facts of the case, and the creditor must respond promptly.

Deposition: This is typically an oral examination, usually before a court reporter, who reduces the questions and answers to a transcript, which can be used at trial. This can be an expensive method of discovery. This procedure is used to clarify the issues, and can secure testimony of a witness who later, at the time of trial, may no longer be in the area or unable to testify for some reason.

Key points to remember: If the particular court where the suit is filed allows for discovery, either side has access to it. In other words, just as a creditor’s attorney can submit discovery to the debtor to obtain additional facts, the debtor has the same opportunity. Don’t be surprised if you are sometimes asked to answer questions under oath, produce documents, or even appear personally for a deposition. Discovery is a serious matter and should not be ignored. Failure to respond to a debtor’s discovery can prevent your case from moving forward, and could lead to a dismissal of the lawsuit.

For general questions, or if you need additional information, feel free to contact your local sales representative or the Louisville office (800-626-5873). This information is intended to be informational only, and does not constitute legal advice. We suggest you consult with your legal counsel if a specific opinion is desired.

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