Discovery is the general term given to the exchange of information between parties to a lawsuit. In Ohio, there is a formal system of rules that needs to be followed, which are outlined in the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure. All forms of discovery are controlled by Civil Rule 26 and can be enforced through Civil Rule 37. Federal litigation is controlled by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The purpose of discovery is to discern those facts and evidence which may support your case at trial. Discovery includes: interrogatories, stipulations, requests for admissions, requests for production of documents, depositions, and physical and mental examinations of persons. The amount information that may be discovered through these requests may include information which may or may not be admissible at trial.
The most common discovery materials are interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and depositions. Interrogatories are written questions that are directed to your opponent. Interrogatories are controlled by Civil Rule 33. Without leave of court, parties are limited to forty interrogatory questions. The interrogatories will be specifically drafted based upon the issues and known factual evidence of your case. For example, if your case involves a car accident, the interrogatories will typically include questions focusing upon the individual drivers, the facts of the accident, the injuries sustained, and any insurance coverage available. Usually a party has 28 days to complete and return the interrogatories tot he requesting individual. Failure to respond to these requests could result in sanctions from the court.
Requests for productions of documents are written requests directed between parties to obtain written documents related to the case. These requests are controlled by Rule 34. The definition of “documents” is quite broad and can generally include any form of tangible evidence, including electronically stored information. There is no limit to the amount of information that can be requested, as long as it is reasonable and relevant to the case.
Depositions are conferences between the parties where one party conducts live questioning of a witness or party as if they were in the court room. They are conducted in front of a court reporter that transcribes the entire conversation to paper. Some depositions are also conducted via video. The party to be deposed is placed under oath and is asked a series of questions regarding a wide range of questions. The topics may include the history of the deponent, his/her criminal history, educational background, work history, and knowledge regarding the facts of the case. The deponent is required to answer all questions, even if the question would not be admissible at the time of trial.
In addition to interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and depositions, there are a few other discovery related materials. These include stipulations, admissions, and physical and mental exams of persons. These are less common, but may be used in your case if the issues or disputed facts require them.
Stipulations are agreements between the parties regarding factual matters that are not in dispute. Parties may also enter into stipulations if they would prefer to conduct discovery matters in a specific manner not usually performed within litigation. Stipulations are also performed right before trial to limit the length and issues the court needs to determine. Theoretically, this allows the trial to be completed faster that without stipulations.
Request for Admissions are meant to streamline the facts in dispute between parties. Admissions are controlled by Rule 36 and can be very influential on a case. If Party A sends admission requests to their opponent, Party B, the opponent has 28 days to respond to these requests, or they are deemed admitted. Party B can no longer question or deny those facts previously deemed admitted without approval from the court. For Party B, it is very important to answer these requests within the proscribed time-frame. Otherwise, these requests may be used against you at trial. Admissions can include any relevant topic of the case and they are not limited in the number of admissions that may be requested.
Physical and mental exams occur when the mental status or physical characteristics of a party or witness is disputed. These exams are controlled by Civil Rule 35. An example of this rule being utilized is when the blood type of a party is in dispute.