What are Interrogatories?
Interrogatories are questions which a party to a lawsuit can require another party to answer, in writing and under oath. Interrogatories are part of the pretrial discovery portion of a lawsuit.
In the District Court, a party may only serve one set of Interrogatories including up to 15 questions.
There are specific rules for when plaintiffs and defendants can serve Interrogatories. Generally speaking, the deadlines are early in the life of the lawsuit.
Normally, the party to whom the interrogatories are directed must serve a response within 15 days. The response shall answer each Interrogatory separately in writing under oath. The required format of the written response is to set forth each Interrogatory followed by its answer. And, the responding party has to sign the Interrogatory answers.
If a party to whom interrogatories are directed fails to respond, the sending party can seek penalties. These sanctions can include dismissal of the case or a judgment against the non-responding party. For these reasons, it is wise to respond to Interrogatories promptly and appropriately.
These District Court rules concerning Interrogatories appear in Maryland Rule 3-421.
In the Circuit Court, a party may serve written Interrogatories directed to any other party. Unless the court orders otherwise, a party may serve one or more sets of Interrogatories. However, the total number of Interrogatory questions cannot exceed 30.
Under most circumstances, the party to whom the interrogatories are directed must serve a response within 30 days. The response shall answer each Interrogatory separately in writing under oath. As in the District Court, the written response must set forth each Interrogatory followed by its answer.
The same as in the District Court, if a party fails to respond to Interrogatories, the sending party can seek sanctions. The penalties can include dismissal of the case or a judgment against the non-responding party.
The Circuit Court rules concerning Interrogatories appear in Maryland Rule 2-421.
What’s the purpose of interrogatories?
Parties send interrogatories for two main reasons. First, they want to discover the details of another party’s case. Second, they want to pin down the other party to a version of the facts in the case. Then, if a witness testifies in court inconsistently with his Answers to Interrogatories, the witness can be confronted with the prior inconsistent Interrogatory answer, casting doubt on the witness’ credibility.
Interrogatories are a routine part of litigation. In virtually all caps, you can expect to receive them soon after the case begins. In fact, it is my practice to serve Interrogatories on the defendant with the original suit papers. Similarly, almost all defense lawyers serve Interrogatories on my client(s) with their initial pleading, called their Answer.
When we receive Interrogatories, my clients and I work together to make sure that complete, accurate and timely Answers are served.
As explained above, Answers to Interrogatories must be signed by the answering party. Most often, for their convenience, we have clients sign the completed Answers through a service such as Docusign.com.
In almost all cases, there is a much greater burden on the plaintiff when answering Interrogatories. That is because plaintiffs have much more information to disclose about the liability and damages in their case.
In my experience, defense lawyers object to as many of the questions as they can, but rarely do they have a legitimate reason for objection. They have a technical reason for doing this, but their objections rarely turn out to be important. In addition, defendants give as little information as they can in their Answers to Interrogatories. Nonetheless, valuable information can be obtained through Interrogatories.
If you have any questions about Interrogatories in a Maryland accident and injury case, please contact us.