In today's Freedom Friday blog and email newsletter, I want to talk about a basic topic that comes up in business disputes that are litigated in Court. Recently I talked about what you should do if your small business is sued, and how its important to gather documents. The same is true if your small business needs to sue someone or another business over money or other issues. Any time your business, small or large, is involved in any kind of lawsuit, you need to gather documents, because you will be required to answer questions and provide documentation in the discovery process, and that's the topic in today's Freedom Friday blog and email newsletter. In today's Freedom Friday blog and email newsletter, I'm answering the question, “What is discovery in 2023?”
In any lawsuit there is an initial pleading stage where the plaintiff (the party who is suing the defendant) files a document called “Petition” (also called a “Complaint” in federal court and in other states), and then the defendant files a response called an “Answer”. So long as there are no initial motions to dismiss or other preliminary issues, the next stage of the case is the “discovery” phase. In today's Freedom Friday blog and email newsletter, I want to give a brief introduction to the five types of discovery you might see in a lawsuit filed in Oklahoma:
The first type of discovery that is issued in a lawsuit is interrogatories. These are written questions served by one party in the lawsuit on the other party. In Oklahoma, a party is limited to thirty (30) interrogatories. Generally, these are written questions, and the answers are generally more elaborate than a simple yes or no answer.
Requests for Production of Documents
The second type of discovery that issued in a lawsuit is requests for production of documents. Again, these are written requests served by one party in the lawsuit on the other party. The requests can be directed towards specific types of documents, and even electronically stored information.
Requests for Admissions
The third type of discovery that is issued in a lawsuit is requests for admissions. These are written questions, but unlike interrogatories, you either are required to admit or deny the statements which are given. You typically have thirty (30) days to respond, or the requests are deemed admitted, which can be a very bad thing.
The fourth type of discovery that is used in a lawsuit is depositions. Depositions are oral examinations under oath of a witness who may or may not be a party to the lawsuit. Typically, the attorney for the defendant, for example, will want to take the deposition of the plaintiff. However, it is not uncommon for lawyers to want to take the deposition of non-party witnesses which under many circumstances must be subpoenaed. The purpose of a deposition is to preview the testimony of a witness or a party involved in the lawsuit. Typical questions involve re-hashing what was stated in answers to interrogatories, but the questions are oral, and allow the attorney taking the deposition to probe further.
The fifth type of discovery that is used in a lawsuit is subpoenas. There are two different types of subpoenas, which are directed towards non-parties. One type of subpoena is a deposition subpoena, which requires a witness to attend his or her deposition. A second type of subpoena is called a subpoena duces tecum, which is used to obtain documents or other information from non-parties. As a small business owner, it is very possible for your business to be served with a subpoena of this nature, even if you are NOT sued. However, you MUST respond or be subject to court sanctions, which is not a good thing. Thus, if your business gets served with a subpoena, its best to hire an attorney who can help you respond, or file an objection, if it's appropriate to do so.
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