Drafting Interrogatories: Thoughts for the Plaintiffs’ Attorney

Help with Interrogatories

Drafting Interrogatories

In Maryland, each party is allowed 30 interrogatories under Maryland Rule 421 without leave of the court. I was looking at a case today that was referred to us by a lawyer who had already filed suit in the case. Our lawyers are normally loathe to take a case that is already in litigation but the referring lawyer has referred a lot of work to us over the years so we agreed to step in and take over the case. It is a complex case involving serious injuries but the defendant’s attorney has posed serious questions as to causation of the Plaintiff’s injuries (previously non symptomatic patient with a herniated disk with an MRI that shows degeneration in the discs). I would love to ask additional interrogatories but the referring attorney, who is a great lawyer, filed 30 interrogatories with the Plaintiff’s Complaint.

The lawyer was probably under the mistaken impression that you cannot file multiple sets of interrogatories. This was the rule until 1994, when Maryland Rule 2-421 was amended to allow parties to serve multiple sets of interrogatories. Of course, the total number of interrogatories still may not exceed thirty.

Given this rule, we typically serve a first set of initial interrogatories and file ”clean-up” interrogatories after putting together the initial facts. When using multiple sets of interrogatories, another tactic our we often use is alternative interrogatories, drafted in light of the defendant’s attorneys answers to requests for admission.

If the defendant’ denies a request for admission that goes to a critical component of Plaintiff’s case, a alternative interrogatory asks for all facts, witnesses and tangible evidence the defendant intends to rely upon at trial to support the defense lawyer’s denial. This tactic is also explained by Even Schaeffer in his trial blog.

Another thought for attorneys answering interrogatories in Maryland and in many other jurisdictions. Often, the scheduling order is unclear about whether the discovery deadline is the deadline to file interrogatories or to have “all discovery completed.” If the answer the latter, your actual deadline to file discovery is 33 days (30 days plus three mailing days) before the discovery deadline. Accordingly, you calendar system should include a deadline to serve additional discovery (or to file a motion to compel) a least 33 days before the discovery deadline (or whatever amount of time your state’s local rule calls for).

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