Interrogatories During The Discovery Process in Texas

Interrogatories During the Discovery Process in Texas

This post on Interrogatories is the third part of a seven-part series on forms of discovery in Texas. The topics are listed below:

Initial Disclosures
Request for Production and Inspection
Request for Motion for Entry Upon Property


In civil litigation, discovery refers to the process where parties in a lawsuit exchange relevant facts and information about a case. In order to facilitate that exchange, the discovery process includes interrogatories, questions relevant to the case which must be answered by the opposing party. Governed by Rule 197 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, interrogatories are a helpful tool for discovery.

Interrogatories are written questions which focus on any information relevant to the case. While interrogatories might inquire about legal theories and factual bases for a claim or denial of a claim, this part of the discovery process does not require evidence to substantiate or refute a claim.

Depending on the discovery level in the case, litigants may request as many as 25 interrogatories. The questions should be relevant to the claims and be as specific as possible. Litigants should avoid overly broad questions, questions addressed in other parts of discovery, or questions with answers available from other resources. The responding party should either provide responsive answers or state clearly and specifically where the litigant can find answers to their questions.

Responses to interrogatories must be verified unless the responding party is not the only party who knows the answer to the question posed and/or if the information is available from another source. However, in the interest of full disclosure the responding party must either answer the questions in the interrogatories, or if denying all or part of the request, state appropriate objections and/or applicable privileges.

Below is Rule 197, which details the guidelines and procedures for making and responding to interrogatories:

197.1 Interrogatories.

A party may serve on another party - no later than 30 days before the end of the discovery period -written interrogatories to inquire about any matter within the scope of discovery except matters covered by Rule 195. An interrogatory may inquire whether a party makes a specific legal or factual contention and may ask the responding party to state the legal theories and to describe in general the factual bases for the party's claims or defenses, but interrogatories may not be used to require the responding party to marshal all of its available proof or the proof the party intends to offer at trial.

197.2 Response to Interrogatories. 

(a) Time for response. The responding party must serve a written response on the requesting party within 30 days after service of the interrogatories.

(b) Content of response. A response must include the party's answers to the interrogatories and may include objections and assertions of privilege as required under these rules.

(c) Option to produce records. If the answer to an interrogatory may be derived or ascertained from public records, from the responding party's business records, or from a compilation, abstract or summary of the responding party's business records, and the burden of deriving or ascertaining the answer is substantially the same for the requesting party as for the responding party, the responding party may answer the interrogatory by specifying and, if applicable, producing the records or compilation, abstract or summary of the records. The records from which the answer may be derived or ascertained must be specified in sufficient detail to permit the requesting party to locate and identify them as readily as can the responding party. If the responding party has specified business records, the responding party must state a reasonable time and place for examination of the documents. The responding party must produce the documents at the time and place stated, unless otherwise agreed by the parties or ordered by the court, and must provide the requesting party a reasonable opportunity to inspect them.

(d) Verification required; exceptions. A responding party - not an agent or attorney as otherwise permitted by Rule 14 - must sign the answers under oath except that:

(1) when answers are based on information obtained from other persons, the party may so state, and

(2) a party need not sign answers to interrogatories about persons with knowledge of relevant facts, trial witnesses, and legal contentions.

197.3 Use. 

Answers to interrogatories may be used only against the responding party. An answer to an interrogatory inquiring about matters described in Rule 194.2(c) and (d) that has been amended or supplemented is not admissible and may not be used for impeachment.

Tex. R. Civ. P. 197

Rules about interrogatories during discovery are strict and complex, and failing to follow those rules can have serious repercussions. Hiring a lawyer who is knowledgeable about the requirements and details of discovery will help a litigant avoid the difficulties that result from not handling interrogatories appropriately.

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