Discovery : What does it mean?
Discovery is the phase before a case goes to trial and arguably is the most important part of a case. The length and scope of the discovery phase is typically established by a judge prior to beginning the discovery phase. During discovery, each side build’s their “game plan” and discover relevant information the other side might have. Discovery may be informal or formal. Informal discovery can be handled by a witness or an attorney outside of a court hearing and typically involves collecting photographs or video evidence relevant to the case. Whereas formal discovery may involve depositions, request for production of documents, expert witnesses, and requests of admissions.
Depositions are an interview outside of court of a witness in the case. They occur upon request of either party and similar to a trial, either party or witness is sworn in under oath to tell the truth and answer all questions honestly. Typically, both parties’ attorneys are present at a deposition, even if only one side demands or requests the deposition. The attorney representing the witness may object to some questions on the record, as depositions are usually videotaped or transcribed for use at trial.
Requests for production of documents (“RFPs”) and Interrogatories are formal court documents drafted by each party addressed to the opposing party. The documents request relevant information and evidence that pertains to each party’s “game plan.” For example, in an ADA discrimination case, if the prosecution is alleging the Defendant employer discriminated against the Plaintiff employee, the Plaintiff may request all documents pertaining to the Plaintiff’s disability such as doctor notes, emails between parties, etc. Some requests may be simply for the location or identity of documents or persons having knowledge of any discoverable matter. Essentially, RFPs and Interrogatories are vehicles for each party to discover relevant information that may be used for or against a “game plan.”
Requests for admissions address basic facts of the case that both sides should concede or stipulate before trial. Thus, instead of wasting time establishing evidence to support basic, non-contended facts, the request for admissions establishes that such basic facts are not disputed by either side.
Completing the discovery phase may take weeks or, depending on the complexity of the case and discoverable material, sometimes months. However, once the discovery phase is complete, the trial can move onto either a settlement process, where both sides can concede strength or weakness of a case and decide to avoid the trial, or can move into the jury-selection phase. The discovery phase can be the longest part of a trial, but it is important to work closely with an attorney and keep up with the deadlines. For questions or information regarding the discovery process contact an RMN attorney today at lawyer@RMN-law.com or 412-626-5626.