Interrogatories are powerful—they allow you to ask questions and then use the answers at trial. But you’re limited as to who you may serve with interrogatories. Here are the four main categories of who can be served with interrogatories.
- You may serve any party. The rules is clear that you can only serve interrogatories on parties. CCP §2030.010(a). That usually means the adverse party, but you may also serve them on any other party. CCP §2030.010(a). For example, a plaintiff may serve interrogatories on another plaintiff in that action. But don’t serve interrogatories on prospective parties to preserve their testimony before an action is filed, because that’s not permitted. See CCP §2035.020.
- You may serve parties that are entities. You may serve interrogatories on any party, including a public or private corporation, a partnership, an association, or a governmental agency. CCP §§2030.010(a), 2030.250. But when you’re serving a corporation or other business entity, you may direct the interrogatories only to the party entity itself; you can’t designate any particular employee, officer, or agent to answer on the entity’s behalf. The entity has the right to do that for itself.
- You may serve a class. Interrogatories may be used in class actions, but until the class has been certified the court may limit their scope to facts bearing on whether the case is properly a class action. Contact information for potential class members is generally discoverable, so that the lead plaintiff may learn the names of others who might help prosecute the case. Pioneer Electronics (USA), Inc. v Superior Court (2007) 40 C4th 360, 373. Unnamed class members can be required to answer interrogatories if you first get a court order. See Cal Rules of Ct 3.768(c). Interrogatories may also be used to redefine the class or add new individual plaintiffs. Although a class representative can’t be compelled to answer interrogatories about the separate claims of another class member, he or she can be compelled, absent a showing of privilege or other valid objection, to supply information possessed by, or readily available to, him or her about another class member that’s not equally available to the propounding party. Alpine Mut. Water Co. v Superior Court (1968) 259 CA2d 45, 54.
- You may serve foreign individuals and entities. You can serve a foreign person or entity with discovery, including interrogatories, but you may have to first use the Hague Convention on the taking of evidence in civil or commercial matters. 28 USC §1781. Whether this step is necessary is evaluated under the balancing approach set out in Société Nationale Industrielle Aerospatiale v U.S. Dist. Court (1987) 482 US 522.
Now that you know who you can serve, review the timing for service and the procedures for propounding or responding to interrogatories. All of these topics are covered in CEB’s California Civil Discovery Practice, chap 7.
Other CEBblog posts you may find useful:
- How to Write Special Interrogatories
- This Is How Interrogatories and Depositions Compare
- 12 Grounds for Objecting to Interrogatories
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