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Duty to Investigate Before Answering Interrogatories

looking_140478824Before you answer interrogatories, you have a duty to investigate. But what does that mean and how far do you have to go?

Here are 4 guidelines to get you through your duty to investigate before responding to interrogatories:

  1. Give answers that reflect all available information. Each answer in the response must “be as complete and straightforward as the information reasonably available to the responding party permits.” CCP §2030.220(a). Available information includes whatever is in the possession of the party and the party’s attorney (unless it’s privileged).
  2. Make a good faith effort to obtain information. If your client doesn’t have enough personal knowledge to respond fully to an interrogatory, state this and make a reasonable and good faith effort to get the information by asking other people or organizations within your client’s control (except if the information is equally available to the propounding party). CCP §2030.220(c). Counsel often overlook the obligation to make a good faith effort to obtain information by inquiry to others within the party’s control. Responding with only the information that’s directly in possession of the party is often insufficient for a full and complete response.
  3. Disclose unprivileged information known to the attorney. The duty to investigate requires that a party disclose information known or available to its attorney, if it’s not otherwise privileged. A deliberate refusal to investigate until after answering interrogatories may be grounds for barring the responding party from introducing at trial evidence that would have been revealed if the party had made the investigation.
  4. Generally don’t investigate beyond those in the party’s control. The duty to investigate doesn’t extend to sources beyond the responding party’s control. This includes independent third parties and sources in the possession or under the control of or equally available to the propounding party. CCP §2030.220(c). In those instances, the propounding party bears the burden of conducting the investigation. In other words, one purpose of discovery law is to enable a party to prepare its case for trial, not to require it, at its expense, to prepare its opponent’s case.

Take your duty to investigate seriously—giving insufficient interrogatory responses can even result in a grant of summary judgment against the responding party. See Ganoe v Metalclad Insulation Corp. (2014) 227 CA4th 1577, 1583 (responses consisting solely of “boilerplate answers,” “general allegations,” and “laundry lists of people and/or documents” are likely to be considered factually devoid and may support summary judgment against responding party).

For guidance on all aspects of responding to interrogatories, turn to CEB’s California Civil Discovery Practice, chap 7.

Other CEBblog™ posts on interrogatory responses:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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