Discovery (document production) can be time consuming, costly, and tiresome. Oftentimes, my clients become frustrated with the discovery process and will want to give up. However, discovery is extremely important for several reasons and, as a result, should not be easily dismissed.
Illinois Supreme Court Rule 213 provides that a party may serve the other party with a set of interrogatories. Interrogatories are a list of written questions that the other party must answer in writing. Rule 213 provides that a party may request the other party to answer as many as thirty interrogatories, unless the parties agree that they may request more. These questions will typically request that the party divulge information about their employment, interests in real estate, bank accounts, debts, and any other asset or liability. Therefore, a party can learn a great deal of information about the other party’s assets and liabilities simply by requesting that he or she answer a list of standard interrogatories. Interrogatories are important because a party’s answer to an interrogatory may be used against them later. An answer to an interrogatory is viewed as that party’s admission regarding that fact. As a result, interrogatories may be used to impeach a party at trial if his or her testimony is inconsistent with his or her answers to the interrogatories. Therefore, it is important to be candid when answering interrogatories.
Illinois Supreme Court Rule 214 provides that a party may request certain documents, objects, and tangible items from the other party for inspection and copying. Similarly to Rule 213, a party will typically request that the other party provide copies of any and all relevant employment documents, documents evidencing interests in real estate, bank account statements, documents evidencing a party’s debts, such as a loan application or credit card statements, and documents evidencing any other asset or liability. Unlike Rule 213, Rule 214 does not specifically limit the amount of documents a party may request. However, parties generally limit their request to documents that existed within three years prior to the date the request is made. This is done not only to limit the burden to the opposing party in gathering the documents, but also to limit the documents to those that would be relevant at trial. Document production is important because, any documents produced by you or your spouse may be used as evidence at trial. Because discovery is so important, I would encourage those currently answering their discovery to be thorough and patient. Although this process can be frustrating, it is an extremely useful way to gather information that will be used for trial.