What is Discovery?

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In most cases, a process called discovery usually takes place.  Discovery is an information-gathering step of litigation, which involves the parties sharing relevant information about the case.  There are several different ways to gather that information and discovery often refers to written discovery and depositions.  Discovery takes place so the parties can be prepared for a trial or otherwise assess the merits of the case.

Written discovery typically consists of interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and/or requests for admissions.  Interrogatories include questions about the facts of the case, who the witnesses might be at trial, and who has information that may be relevant to the case.  Requests for production of documents typically include requests for any relevant documentation relating to the case.  For example, if it is a divorce matter, the request for production of documents will include requests for documentation of the value of bank accounts, real property, and any other assets. If the case involves a business dispute, there will generally be requests for any contracts or agreements between the parties. In addition to these questions and requests, written discovery often includes requests for admissions. Requests for admissions require the party responding to the request to either admit or deny certain facts about the case.  This allows the parties to narrow the disputed issues. The rules of civil procedure generally require that a party respond to written discovery within thirty days.

Another often utilized discovery method is through depositions, which are recorded conversations about the case.  The person being deposed must swear to tell the truth and the deposition is recorded by a court reporter, who will prepare a transcript of the deposition.  Depositions are also sometimes recorded on video.  The purpose of the deposition, like written discovery, is to gather evidence and testimony that may be used at trial. Generally, deposition testimony is similar to the expected trial testimony and is a question-and-answer session about the facts of the case.  While written discovery in the form of interrogatories and requests for production of documents is limited to the parties, any person with knowledge of a case may be deposed.  Retaining an attorney to attend a deposition with you may be wise in order to prepare you for a deposition and state objections, if necessary.

These are the most commonly used methods for discovery in civil litigation cases.  If you need assistance with discovery in your case, contact an attorney at O’Keeffe O’Brien Lyson Foss in Fargo, North Dakota to discuss or call 701-235-8000 or 877-235-8002.

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