Written questions submitted to a party from his or her adversary to ascertain answers that are prepared in writing and signed under oath and that have relevance to the issues in a lawsuit.
Interrogatories are a discovery device used by a party, usually a defendant, to enable the individual to learn the facts that are the basis for, or support, a pleading with which he or she has been served by the opposing party. They are used primarily to determine what issues are present in a case and how to frame a responsive pleading or a deposition. Only parties to an action must respond to interrogatories, unlike depositions that question both parties and witnesses.
Interrogatories are used to obtain relevant information that a party has regarding a case, but they cannot be used to elicit privileged communications. The question must be stated precisely to evoke an answer relevant to the litigated issues. A party can seek information that is within the personal knowledge of the other or that might necessitate a review of his or her records in order to answer. The federal rules of civil procedure and the rules governing state court proceedings provide that when interrogatories seek disclosure of information contained in corporate records, the party upon whom the request is served can designate the records that contain the answers, thereby making the requesting party find the answer for himself or herself. No party can be compelled to answer interrogatories that involve matters beyond the party's control. Objections to questions submitted can be raised and a party need not answer them until a court determines their validity.
Interrogatories are one of the most commonly used methods of discovery. They can be employed at any time and there is no limit on the number that can be served. Although they are not generally used for purposes of evidence in a trial, they might be admissible if they satisfy the rules of evidence, such as the best evidence rule or are an exception to the hearsay rule.