In New Jersey state court litigation, the parties are entitled to conduct discovery so that they are not ambushed at the time of trial, and so that they can develop an understanding of the other party’s case. There are many methods of discovery, such as:
- Interrogatories are written questions which must be answered in writing and certified by the answering party. In certain cases, such as personal injury, the number of interrogatories may be limited to the use of prescribed form interrogatories.
- Document demands itemize various kinds and categories of documents, such as checks, medical records, correspondence and architectural plans which the requesting party seeks to have duplicated and provided by the other party. The answering party must certify as to the completeness of the document production.
- Requests for admissions ask a party to admit or deny, within a certain period of time, the truth of certain statements and/or the genuineness of certain documents. The matters are deemed to be admitted in the absence of a timely response.
- Examinations of people, places and things may be requested on written notice. In personal injury cases, medical examinations of plaintiffs are common. In the case of a boundary line dispute, a party may seek access to the adjoining property in order to permit his surveyor to take measurements.
- Depositions are oral examinations of individuals under oath, where questions and answers are recorded by certified reporters, and sometimes by videotape.
In the event that a party fails to provide discovery, the other party may seek to dismiss the complaint or strike the answer, or may seek to compel the discovery to be provided. Generally, a party who fails to provide a requested item of discovery will be barred from using that item as evidence at trial. Also, a party may be confronted with his discovery responses at trial to the extent that same are inconsistent with his trial testimony. Finally, the exchange of discovery allows each party to develop an understanding of the other party’s case and evidence, so that the case can be evaluated for settlement, and settled if appropriate.