© 2011 Frederic M. Douglas. All Rights Reserved.
When responding to interrogatories propounded in federal litigation, take care to comply with federal rules, local rules, and good practices. Another concern should always be responding well to further your position.
Responses should be served on time. Failure to serve objections in a timely manner can cause waiver of all objections. You may elect to submit documents in lieu of responses if appropriate, as provided in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 33(d). Several litigants choose this option as a tactic believed to make responding easier. Another idea is that such a document dump helps to frustrate the opponent. However, the rules require that the documents responsive to the interrogatory be specified in detail to enable the opponent to locate and identify the responsive material. If one follows the rules, there is not much ability to frustrate the opponent or make responding to the interrogatory less burdensome.
The maximum number of interrogatories propounded by a party is 25. Often, a party forgets the limit and propounds more than 25 interrogatories in one set or cumulatively. In such situations, responders often respond to only the first 25 interrogatories and then refuse to respond to the remained. Some responders will even successfully refuse to respond to any interrogatories in a set that surpasses 25, even if the 26th interrogatory is not the first interrogatory in the instant set.
Take care to scrutinize the interrogatory and your response for typographical errors. If the interrogatory is unintelligible, contradictory, or non-sensical, you may sufficiently respond to the interrogatory as provided. As interrogatory responses may be held against a party, it would be unfortunate to find out at trial that a typographical error binds the party in the midst of trial.
Parties have an obligation to seasonably update interrogatory responses. Avoid forgetting to update responses as you may be prevented at trial from bringing forth evidence that could have been responsive to the interrogatory but you failed to update the relevant response. Additionally, you may even need the information updated as evidence to prove your case at trial. Review interrogatory responses periodically to identify which responses should be updated and which responses are likely to need to be updated soon. Frequently refer to your proof rubric and jury instructions to determine when you are missing needed evidence that should be disclosed.
Frederic M. Douglas is an intellectual property attorney based in Irvine, California with clients all over the world.