After a lawsuit is filed, the parties are entitled to learn what their opponents know about the case. Specifically, each party can schedule depositions, send written questions called "interrogatories," inspect documents and other tangible evidence, and demand that certain facts and other things be admitted without a trial. In some states, these procedures are referred to as "discovery," and in others, as "disclosure." The names may be different, but the rules are basically the same.
A set of dog bite interrogatories, requests for admissions, demands for production of documents, and deposition questions for a dog owner and other witnesses in a dog bite case can be purchased from the Dog Bite Law Store. The documents in the Dog Bite Lawsuit Forms are in use throughout the USA by plaintiffs' lawyers.
Discovery is subject to limitations. The subject matter can be very broad and therefore obtrusive; if overly broad or obtrusive, however, the responding party can obtain a court order that remedies the situation. The number of interrogatories, requests for admission, and demands for production of documentary and tangible evidence usually is limited. For example, in California a party can submit only 35 specially drafted interrogatories unless the party's attorney submits a declaration setting forth why a greater number would be justified. (See California Code of Civil Procedure, sec. 2030.010 et seq.) It should be added that California allows each party to serve the Judicial Council's form interrogatories as many times as necessary, as well as a supplemental interrogatory twice before the trial setting and a third time after it. A supplemental interrogatory is necessary in a state like California that does not require a party to provide new information acquired after the party responded to prior interrogatories.
Each party in the lawsuit is required to respond to requests for discovery. Failure to respond may result in substantial penalties, from fines all the way to losing the case.
Responses to discovery have to be verified in some manner. In states like California, the party (not his attorney) must sign a form under penalty of perjury that confirms that the responses are true and correct. Some states require that the verification form be notarized. As noted above, some states require a party to supplement its responses with information learned later.
Objections may be made to discovery requests. The type of objection and how it must be made are set forth in the civil procedure laws of each state. For California, see T. Bloomfield, L. DeArmas and W. Karns, Effective Use of Objections in Responding to Interrogatories.
To learn about litigation in general, see Litigation.