Consumer protection lawsuits in federal court: part 9 — discovery process begins

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Now is the time for “discovery” which is the biggest part of the case before the trial. This is where the parties exchange information and documents so each side can be prepared for trial and to evaluate settlement options
Despite what we see on TV shows, the big picture idea of trial is not to have surprise witnesses and documents at trial. Instead, both sides are given the opportunity to ask each other questions to find out what each side knows about the case.

Here are the basic types of discovery:

Initial disclosures — each side must give the other side information about witnesses, documents, damages, insurance, etc. even without being asked to give this information.

Interrogatories — You can ask the other side to answer questions in writing. Think of this as a written “interrogation”.

Request for production of documents — You ask the other side to give you specific documents. Often the amount of documents in a typical federal consumer protection lawsuit numbers in the hundreds or the thousands.

Request for admissions — You ask the other side to admit or deny certain specific facts. This helps to go ahead and establish certain facts so you don’t have to spend time nailing down these facts — the other side has already admitted them.

Subpoenas — This is for non parties who are not a part of the lawsuit. You can require them to produce documents or even give a deposition. So this could be telephone records, credit reporting information, etc.

Depositions — This is where each side can ask questions under oath with a court reporter present. This is usually in the final stages of the discovery process after the written discovery mentioned above but it can also take place before written discovery.

We’ll look at each of these in detail in future blog posts.

The key point is this article is to understand that the whole idea of discovery is that each party can gather up the facts and know what the other side knows about the case.

If we, for the most part, remove the element of surprise, then the theory is this allows both sides to properly evaluate the case. This makes it easier for both sides to settle as they can see how strong or weak their case is and properly evaluate the value of the case.

And if the case does not settle, then trial will go relatively smoothly without surprises.

In our next article we will cover “initial disclosures” and why these are important.

Hope you are enjoying our series on consumer protection lawsuits in federal court.

Give us a call at 205-879-2447 if you have any questions and we’ll be glad to help you any way we can.

Thanks!

John Watts

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