Monday Civil Litigation 101: Special Interrogatoriesby Attorney Judith Elaine Hoover on 01/16/12
Monday Civil Litigation 101: Discovery Methods
1. What is a Special Interrogatory?
An interrogatory is a written question. A special interrogatory is a specially prepared written question. Usually an attorney prepares these special written questions, as opposed to the form interrogatories which are prewritten questions on forms made available by the Judicial Council of California. (For further information on form interrogatories click here.) The written questions are prepared by one party to a lawsuit and given to another party.
2. How many special interrogatories, or written questions, can I ask?
You are limited to 35 special interrogatories. You can also only give them to another party while there is an actual lawsuit going. You cannot give them to someone you plan on suing in the future.
3. Do I have to answer or respond to special interrogatories?
Yes! For Two Reasons:
A. COMMON SENSE REASON TO ANSWER SPECIAL INTERROGATORIES :
a. If you want someone to answer your questions, you should answer his/her questions.
B. LEGAL CONSEQUENCES OF NOT ANSWERING SPECIAL INTERROGATORIES:
a. If you do not answer the written questions, the party asking the questions can ask the court to fine you. If you continue to refuse to answer, you may lose your suit or not be able to defend yourself.
4. How do I answer special interrogatories?
You must answer within 30 days from the day the questions were given to you. If you fail to answer on time and the other side does not agree to give you more time, you cannot object to any of the questions.
Tip: If you cannot answer in 30 days, call the person that gave the questions to you and ask for more time. Do not let time run out and then call! Ask in advance!
Here is what California Code of Civil Procedure Section 2030.220 says about answers to interrogatories:
(a) Each answer in a response to interrogatories shall be as complete and straightforward as the information reasonably available to the responding party permits.
In other words, answer the whole question to the best of your ability.
TIP: Although not required, write the number of the question asked and write out the complete question. Write your response below. This helps keep your response organized and makes it easier for the other side to read.
(b) If an interrogatory cannot be answered completely, it shall be answered to the extent possible.
If you only know half of what the person is asking, answer with the half that you do know. Don’t make anything up in an attempt to answer completely.
(c) If the responding party does not have personal knowledge sufficient to respond fully to an interrogatory, that party shall so state, but shall make a reasonable and good faith effort to obtain the information by inquiry to other natural persons or organizations, except where the information is equally available to the propounding party.
If you do not know the answer, write that you do not know the answer to the question. If you know who may have the answer, try to find out the answer from that person. If you cannot reach the person who has the answer, let the party asking the question know who that person is and how they can find them.
Responding to interrogatories can seem stressful and scary. If you cannot afford an attorney to help you prepare your answers, seek out the help of legal aid or a qualified paralegal.
I am happy to help self-represented parties prepare interrogatories and/or responses to interrogatories. Feel free to contact my office for more information!
Keywords: California Civil Procedure, Discovery, Special Interrogatories, Interrogatories.
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