Discovery: What is an Interrogatory?

An Interrogatory is somewhat similar to a Request for Disclosure. It is a discovery tool which requires the other side to answer questions about the lawsuit prior to trial.  Unlike Disclosures, which are preset generic questions which have been approved in advance to be asked in any civil lawsuit, interrogatories are individually crafted and often tailored to the specific facts and allegations at issue in the lawsuit in which they are served.

Interrogatories are generally limited in number and are therefore most commonly used to narrow issues and focus on discrete theories and facts to develop the case for trial.  If properly served and properly drafted, a party must answer any interrogatory which is relevant to the lawsuit, unless the question calls for privileged information (which will be discussed in a later post).  If a party is providing interrogatory answers based on their personal knowledge, they are required to sign their responses under oath. 

Limits to the number of interrogatories which may be served are imposed by specific rules of procedure, such as Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 190.2(b)(3), which imposes a limit of 15 interrogatories in Level 1 cases, and TRCP 190.3(b)(3), which imposes a limit of 25 interrogatories for Level 2 cases.  The court may modify these limitations under certain circumstances and may also establish entirely different limitations in Level 3 cases pursuant to TRCP 190.4(b).

Response to interrogatories are generally due 30 days after the interrogatories are properly served upon the other party, but in some circumstances the due date may be extended, either by rule or by court order.

Interrogatories, like Disclosures, may only be served on parties to the lawsuit, not witnesses or others who aren’t named parties.  Like Disclosures, they may only be used at trial against the party who answered them.  A party may not introduce his own self-serving answers into evidence, but if a party is questioned about his interrogatory answers at trial, the party may then be able to offer the remainder of the answer or other interrogatory answers to provide context to the answer.

As with a Disclosure, the responding party has an ongoing duty to supplement responses throughout the duration of the lawsuit.  In other words, even if an interrogatory response was accurate and truthful when given, if over the course of the lawsuit, the response has become inaccurate or incomplete, the response must be corrected or updated as soon as new or correct information is known.

The manner in which interrogatory answers may be used at trial is the same as for Disclosure responses.  Interrogatories and the answers thereto may be read into evidence, but they may also be marked and received into evidence as well.

— Bonnie Sudderth, Judge of the 352nd District Court of Tarrant County, Texas

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