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What is “discovery” in business litigation?

On Behalf of | May 8, 2023 | Business Disputes

When businesses in California are facing litigation—either as a plaintiff or defendant—decision makers probably know that they might be in for a long process. Although in many cases, the parties remain open to negotiation to attempt to find ways to resolve the legal dispute, that might be occurring in the background as the actual litigation process plays out. One key part of any legal case is the “discovery” phase.

So, what is “discovery”? Well, in essence, this is the stage of the case that occurs after preliminary complaints and answers have been filed, when the parties in the case can begin to gather more information from each other about the claims and facts that will be part of the litigation. Typically, discovery occurs by use of the following mechanics: “depositions,” “interrogatories” and requests for documentation.

Discovery mechanics

Depositions can be quite involved and time-consuming for both parties. Depositions are similar to testifying in court but, instead, they usually occur in a conference room at one of the attorney’s offices. In short, a deposition is when a potential witness in the case is called to answer questions directly from an attorney on the other side of the case—just like being a witness in the courtroom. However, depositions are a bit less formal, although there is a court reporter present to record the testimony.

“Interrogatories” is just a fancy legal word for written questions. The number of written questions that can be sent in any one set of interrogatories is usually limited, so making the questions as clear as possible is important. Requests for documentation, on the other hand, are just what it sounds like—a request for the other party to produce specifically identified documentation that might be important to developing the legal theories and facts that could be involved in the business litigation.