- Format of special interrogatories. Unlike form interrogatories, there’s no judicial council form for special interrogatories. Special interrogatories contain a caption similar to pleadings, which lists the attorney’s contact information, the county where the action has been filed, the parties, the name of the document, and the set number. Immediately below the caption, all special interrogatories must set out (CCP §2030.060(b)):
- The propounding party;
- The set number; and
- The responding party.
A good practice is to state the time limit to respond to the interrogatories (i.e., 30 days from the date of service under CCP §§22030.010-030.410) under the caption.
- Consecutively numbered interrogatories. In addition to this boilerplate information, make sure that each set of interrogatories is numbered consecutively and separately. CCP §2030.060(a), 2030.060(c).
- Content of special interrogatories. Each interrogatory should be geared towards ascertaining an opponent’s contentions, as well as the facts, witnesses, and writings on which these contentions are based. Special interrogatories may also be used to determine the existence and description of documents that may be the subject of a request to produce for inspection under CCP §2031.010. It’s helpful to create an outline to organize the information needed before drafting the interrogatories. When you plan to use the answers at trial, narrowly draw the questions to call for short answers, because short answers are more difficult to disclaim than longer ones. And broadly drafted interrogatories may either be objected to or produce answers that are too qualified to be of much value. But if the question’s purpose is more for gathering information, it may be better to draft it broadly to make it as comprehensive as possible.
- Additional statutory requirements for special interrogatories. Keep in mind these additional rules when drafting interrogatories:
- Don’t include a preface or instructions within the question (unless approved under CCP §§2033.710-2033.740) (CCP §2033.060(d)).
- If a term needs to be specially defined, capitalize the defined words wherever they appear throughout the interrogatories. CCP §2030.060(e). Additionally, be sure to define the term within the question itself when the term first appears in the interrogatories. (e.g., “State the date upon which you acquired the REAL PROPERTY. (‘REAL PROPERTY’ as used in these interrogatories refers to 123 Main Street, Anytown, California)”).
- Make each question complete and self-contained (CCP §2030.060(d)). In other words, interrogatories can’t refer to a preceding question or make the responding party refer to other documents to understand the question.
- Don’t use subparts or compound, conjunctive, or disjunctive questions. CCP §2030.060(f).
Now that you’ve got the overview and a heads up on some key procedural rules, go to CEB’s Obtaining Discovery: Initiating and Responding to Discovery Procedures (Action Guide) for step-by-step guidance on using interrogatories and other discovery tools. And get in-depth analysis of all aspects of interrogatory use, including an interrogatory procedure checklist and a sample special interrogatory boilerplate, in CEB’s California Civil Discovery Practice, chap 7 . To learn the strategies and techniques for optimizing your written discovery plan, check out CEB’s program Written Discovery Planning, available On Demand.
Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:
- This Is How Interrogatories and Depositions Compare
- 7 Rules for Drafting Interrogatories
- Timing Your Interrogatories
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