What role do interrogatories play in a lawsuit? | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

A lawyer can stand up in court and show a jury the interrogatories/question and a client’s answer so long as the attorney notifies the court that it intends to make this information known to a jury. Also, interrogatories, because under oath are essentially testimony of a party. When a party gives an answer under oath it is essentially stating a client position on that point and it is hard to change that testimony at a later date. 

Circumstances can change, such as a physical condition can grow worse, and if the condition or situation changes, it is appropriate to file a supplemental answer notifying the other party of the additional or supplemental information. In some cases, we may file 10 to 15 times supplemental answers on behalf of a client, updating information.

Especially because interrogatories may be read to a jury, any attorney must be careful and review all answers with a client before they are placed under oath. I’ve had the experience of several clients not fully disclosing information about a prior injury or a prior condition that they didn’t think was relevant– and did not want to tell me about– so they did not feel it needed to be listed. Once I have reviewed all of the information with the client, I’ve convinced the client that under the law they must provide the information even though they don’t believe it is relevant.

The test in virtually every state and federal court is that if the information may in any way lead the opposite party to some relevant point in the case, it must be disclosed. It is clearly good legal advice to a client to always disclose what could possibly be required because simply giving the answer under oath in an interrogatory, in no way means that the information could be utilized at trial with a jury.

In other words, there is a lot of information in injury litigation that must be disclosed, but there is a much tighter requirement about what evidence is admissible to a jury and a judge will exclude all kinds of things that might have been disclosed in the interrogatory answers, but are later ruled not admissible at trial. A perfect example would be disclosing that a client was in a prior car accident 15 years ago and suffered personal injuries.