Special Interrogatories Vs. Form Interrogatories

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Before a case goes to trial, each party may be required to complete pre-trial discovery. Discovery is a legal fact-finding process that allows the respective parties to gather evidence to use at trial to prove their cases. For example, a plaintiff's lawyer may request the defendant complete a deposition to learn any additional facts to win the case. Besides depositions, parties can send interrogatories. Often interrogatories are cheaper because they don't require hiring court reports or additional staff.

Interrogatories

  • Interrogatories are written questions that a party, such as a plaintiff or witness, must answer under oath. Interrogatories are typically a packet of questions. Each question has space underneath it for a handwritten answer. Interrogatories must be completed truthfully and returned within a specific number of days, depending on the jurisdiction. For example, a witness may have to write answers and mail the interrogatories within 30 days. The answers provided are often submitted into evidence and used during the trial. There are two types of interrogatories: form and special.

Form Interrogatories

  • Form interrogatories are sets of questions that one party sends to an opposing party. Form interrogatories are considered a "canned" set of questions, according to the U.S. Legal Definitions website. Typically, these general questions come from online legal websites or law books. The sets of form interrogatories are non-specific and for civil cases, such as property disputes, contract disputes or landlord-tenant cases. However, lawyers and paralegals often adapt and supplement questions to form interrogatories for the particular legal case.

Special Interrogatories

  • Special interrogatories are sets of specific questions that one party sends to an opposing party. Unlike form interrogatories, special interrogatories are drafted by an attorney or paralegal involved in the case. Although the questions are relevant to the case, they cannot be used to obtain privileged information. Special interrogatories typically cannot include sub-parts to questions or refer to previous questions.

Considerations

  • The party receiving the form or special interrogatories can object to the questions' relevancy in court. However, the party can raise the objection when answering the questions or when they are introduced during trial. Generally, the number of interrogatories that can be sent to each party varies by state. This limit prohibits one party from harassing the other.

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