Interrogatories, requests for admission, requests for production, motions in limine, and motions for summary judgment - what do these have in common? They are all documents prepared by attorneys during the pre-trial discovery process of a case. Since they are legal documents, you may be wondering if you need to know what they are and if you need to review them. Yes and yes!
Types of Discovery
Discovery is the exchange of information by opposing parties in response to each side’s document production requests, interrogatories, and request for admissions. It also includes expert disclosures. The documents produced by each side may be in the form of hard copies, and/or electronic copies on CDs, DVDs, a cloud share site (e.g. Dropbox) and/or in an online database. Every page of every document produced during the discovery phase is assigned a unique alphanumeric code called a Bates number. This number is stamped on the documents in order for each side to easily identify specific documents and to know the source of those documents.
Sometimes referred to as rogs for short – they are a series of written questions to get information from the opposing party that may be useful in discovery. For example, the plaintiff is seeking information about shipments of raw materials to a factory over a period of three decades. At a minimum, the plaintiff’s attorney will write interrogatories seeking information on whether purchasing records for those materials exist, over what time period, and where they are stored. The attorney may also want to take the depositions of the individuals with knowledge about this topic. In order to know whose depositions to take, the attorney writes questions asking the names, the time period of employment and the current address of those individuals. Defense counsel, with help from its client, is required to respond truthfully to the questions in a defined period of time. Similarly, the defense attorney will write questions for the plaintiffs to answer as well.
Request for Admissions
Also known as a request to admit, this written exchange is used to establish undisputed facts in a case that won’t require expert opinion or legal argument as the case moves forward. Responses are typically required within 30 days. Using the example above, requests for admissions could contain statements such as "Admit that from 1953 to 1983 Company X purchased chemicals A, B, and C from Company Y." and "Admit that from 1953 to 1983 Company X received chemicals A, B, and C in drums from Company Y." The opposing side will respond with either "Admit" or "Deny" or "Neither Admit nor Deny" with an explanation as to why it does not know if the information is true or not. The admissions can be used by experts to establish facts, and the denials will then be argued by both sides to the jury.
Requests for Production
Also known as RFPs or document production requests, they are written by opposing parties’ attorneys to obtain documents containing information relevant to the case. Both sides are required to produce relevant documents in a defined time period. Using the example above, the plaintiff attorney will request the purchasing records if the response to the rogs indicated they exist. The defense attorney will also request documents from the plaintiff to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support the allegations in the complaint. This document exchange between parties is critical for experts as it contains a lot of the information relied on for expert opinions. Supplemental document production requests may be filed by each side as long as the exchange occurs prior to the discovery cutoff.
Motions in limine
Motions in limine are filed during the pre-trial process asking the court to limit or exclude evidence such as documents, reference to a particular topic, and/or fact witness testimony from being presented during trial. Motions in limine are also filed to exclude expert testimony. Because the court decides the admissibility of evidence, including experts, the judge will usually rule on these motions before the trial begins. In Federal Court, a motion in limine to exclude an expert is typically referred to as a "Daubert" motion. The same holds true for a number of state courts that have adopted Daubert for determining admissibility of expert testimony. The other side is given a time limit to respond to the motions and sometimes seeks assistance from its experts.
Motion for Summary Judgment
This type of motion is typically filed by the defendant arguing there is not sufficient evidence to continue the case to trial. However, this type of motion can be filed by either side asking the court to dismiss a specific issue in which not enough evidence exists and therefore it does not need to be presented at trial. As with the other motions, the other side is given a time limit to respond to the motion and sometimes seeks assistance from the experts. If the judge rules in favor of the defendant on its motions in limine, including excluding one or more plaintiff’s experts, the plaintiffs may be at a disadvantage because there may not be sufficient evidence or expert testimony to prove up the case. If that happens, the judge will grant the defendant’s motion for summary judgment and dismiss the case.
Discovery is very critical to experts since the information obtained during the discovery process will help you determine the veracity and strength of your expert opinions. All of the documents described above should be available for you to review. Be sure to ask your client attorney about the status of these exchanges during the pre-trial process and how you can be of assistance in drafting and/or responding. <Comment>