Journalist's Guide

In the Circuit Court, the answer does not provide much useful information to the public other than the name and contact information for the defense attorney. It is often a fairly standard document which may generally deny all liability. It often includes a wide range of defenses that might have little relevance to the particular case. This is done to ensure none of the possible defenses are waived.

In the District Court, the notice of intention to defend is similarly standard. It states only the defendant intends to be present in trial and it may set forth some type of defense.

Discovery (learning about the other side’s case) The point of discovery in a civil trial is that neither side is supposed to be surprised or ambushed in court by the claims, defenses or evidence put on by the other side. Therefore, parties are entitled to a broad exchange of information in which they can inquire about anything, such as a party’s contentions or damages, so long as it is relevant or may lead to relevant information about some issue or defense in the case and as long as it is not privileged by law, such as information concerning discussions between attorney and client or protected by the attorney work-product doctrine which protects the attorney’s thought processes. Disputes between the parties over discovery are very common and unless resolved by the parties themselves, may be resolved by the judge. Written Discovery When a plaintiff serves a complaint upon a defendant, the attorney will likely serve written requests for discovery upon the defendant at the same time or soon after. Similarly, when the defendant answers the complaint, the response is often accompanied by written discovery upon the plaintiff. Written discovery primarily includes documents known as interrogatories and request for production of documents . Interrogatories are written questions directed to the other parties regarding that party’s contentions and knowledge of facts relevant to the case. The answers are to be made under oath. Interrogatories are available in both circuit and District Court cases. The request for production of documents requires the party to which the request is directed to produce documents relevant to the case such as medical records, records maintained in the course of business, insurance information, photographs and logs. Document production exists in both courts, but it is much broader in a Circuit Court case. Another valuable form of written discovery, in the Circuit Court only, is called a request for admissions , in which a party will ask the opposing party to admit or deny certain facts or contentions in a case. The opposing party must respond within 30 days or all requests may be deemed admitted.


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