Discovery - Interrogatories
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Interrogatories are one form of discovery in a lawsuit. An interrogatory is a written question from one party to the lawsuit to another party to the lawsuit (usually, the opposing party). Interrogatories are a way to obtain information from the opposing party that may be useful in the lawsuit. However, this information does not include privileged information. The answers to interrogatories may be used as evidence at trial or in a hearing by any party, if permitted by the court.
Unlike depositions, which may be directed toward non-parties, interrogatories may only be served on parties to the lawsuit. For example, a plaintiff may send interrogatories to the defendant, and the defendant may send interrogatories to the plaintiff. Note there are limits on the number of interrogatories that may be sent to another party in the lawsuit.
Sample Interrogatories - There are “Form Interrogatories” in the Appendix to the Maryland Rules, Volume 2.
- These Form Interrogatories are split into multiple subjects, including general topics, domestic relations, motor vehicle torts, personal injury, product liability, and medical malpractice.
- Form Interrogatories were developed for use in the Circuit Court, but may also be helpful in a case filed in the District Court. Note that there are differences between what is permitted in the Circuit Court and the District Court. For example, in the District Court, there is a maximum limit of 15 interrogatories, but the limit in Circuit Court is 30 interrogatories.
- The Form Interrogatories are samples only. You may need to revise the samples for your specific case.
- You do not have to use the Form Interrogatories. You can draft your own interrogatories.
Service - A party may serve the other party with interrogatories by mailing them to the other party or by hand-delivery. In certain circumstances, service may be available electronically through the Maryland Electronic Courts (MDEC). Learn more about service of process.
Business Records as a Response - To respond to the interrogatory, you may have the option to produce or identify specific business records or provide reasonable opportunities to examine, audit, inspect, copy, compile, abstract, or summarize the business records if:
- an answer to an interrogatory may be found in a business record belonging to the party (or under the control of the party) answering the interrogatory;
- the burden of finding and figuring out the information is substantially the same for both parties; and
- the party answering the question does not already have the information.
When you specify the records, you must do so with enough detail so that the party asking the question can find and identify the records that have the requested information as readily as you can.
Limits - Unless the court orders otherwise, you can serve up to 30 written interrogatories directed to any other party. If there are multiple parties, you can serve up to 30 interrogatories to each party.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 2-421(a)
Single Question - When drafting interrogatories, make sure that each interrogatory asks a single question. An interrogatory that contains many subparts may count as multiple interrogatories. There is an exception to this rule for the “form” interrogatories found in the Appendix to the Maryland Rules. Each form interrogatory contained in the Appendix counts as a single interrogatory. Consult the form interrogatories, and use those that are applicable to your case.
Timing - Interrogatories are generally served early in the lawsuit.
- Some plaintiffs will even serve interrogatories with the Complaint.
- Unless the court orders otherwise, you do not have to serve all interrogatories to a party at the same time. You may serve some interrogatories to a party at the beginning of the lawsuit and the remainder at a later time, so long as you do not exceed the 30 interrogatories total for each party.
Response/Answer - You must respond to interrogatories.
- You must serve your response/answer within 30 days after service of the interrogatories or within 15 days after the date on which your initial pleading or motion is required, whichever is later.
- The answers must be made in writing under oath and signed by the answering party.
- You must answer the interrogatories as much as you can.
- If you object to any interrogatory, state the reasons for your objection in the answer to the interrogatory.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 2-421(b)
Duty to Supplement - There is an ongoing responsibility to communicate any new information that is responsive to the interrogatory. For example, if you know that the response that you gave to an interrogatory is no longer true in light of new information, then you must communicate that to the other party.
Read the Case: Klein v. Weiss, 284 Md. 36 (Court of Appeals, 1978)
Limits - You can send up to 15 interrogatories to another party in the lawsuit. If there is more than one defendant, the plaintiff may send 15 interrogatories to each defendant. Similarly, if there is more than one plaintiff, the defendant may send 15 interrogatories to each plaintiff.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 3-421(b)
Timing - The plaintiff may serve interrogatories on the defendant no later than 10 days after the date on which the clerk of the court mails notice to the plaintiff that the defendant has filed a notice of intention to defend. The defendant may serve interrogatories on the plaintiff no later than 10 days after the time for filing a notice of intention to defend.
Response/Answer - Generally, you must respond.
- A written response to the interrogatories must be served on the party sending the interrogatories within 15 days after service of the interrogatories or within 5 days after the date on which that party's notice of intention to defend is required, whichever is later.
- The response or answers to interrogatories must be in writing.
- The response must first state the interrogatory and then state the answer to the interrogatory or the grounds for refusing to answer the interrogatory.
- Each interrogatory must be answered separately.
- Generally, the answer to an interrogatory must include all information available to the party directly or through their agents, representatives, or attorneys.
- The response must be signed by the party making it and under oath. The Maryland Rules explain the forms of acceptable written oath. Read the Rule: Md. Rule 1-304
Duty to Supplement - If a party who has answered interrogatories later obtains additional information that is responsive to the interrogatories, the party is required to supplement their response to the interrogatories promptly.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 3-421(d)
Protective Order - A party served with interrogatories may file with the court a motion for a protective order, asking the court to protect the party from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense. The party filing the motion for protective order must serve the party who generated the interrogatories with a copy of the motion. The court may grant or deny the motion for protective order and will issue a written order to the parties. If the party does not obtain a protective order from the court and does not respond to interrogatories, the party generating the interrogatories may ask the court to impose sanctions on the party failing to respond to the interrogatories, which may be as severe as dismissing the action or a part of the action or entering a judgment by default against the failing party.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 3-421(c)
Compelling a Response - If the other party does not respond to interrogatories, the party who generated interrogatories may file, with the court, a motion to compel answers to interrogatories if the party to whom the interrogatories were sent fails or refuses to respond to the interrogatories within five days after service of the response.
Read the Rule: Md. Rule 3-421(g)
Court Filings - The interrogatories that you send to the other party are not filed with the court. However, the party generating the interrogatories must file Notice with the court stating that interrogatories were served, the date and manner of service on the other party, and the name of the party served. Similarly, the party responding to the interrogatories must file Notice with the court stating that a response to the interrogatories was served, the date and manner of service on the other party, and the name of the party served.