This article is part of our Anatomy of a Lawsuit series, where Attorney Travis Charles Smith provides accurate information about the legal process in Oklahoma. If you have questions about the process that are not covered in this article series, please send us your question by email and we will be happy to answer it.
What is Legal Discovery?
The Discovery phase comes after the lawsuit is filed. At this phase of the lawsuit, each side is entitled to explore evidence in the possession of the other party.
The purpose of discovery is to provide each side with an understanding of the evidence possessed by the party opponent.
As noted by the U.S. Supreme Court, modern discovery “make[s] a trial less a game of blind man’s bluff and more a fair contest with the basic issues and facts disclosed to the fullest practicable extent.” U.S. v. Procter & Gamble (1958), 78 S.Ct. 983, 986-987, 356 U.S. 677, 682-683.
And so the concept goes, with Oklahoma’s legal system being no different.
If you are being sued, Discovery allows you to know what exactly the other side has that makes them think they have a case against you. And you can then decide whether their claim has merit or whether you think you can defeat it at trial.
If you are pursuing a claim, Discovery allows you an opportunity to interview the witnesses that otherwise may not be willing to speak to you voluntarily. You now have to tools to obtain the evidence to prove your claim. Without discovery, plaintiffs would face an unsurmountable hurdle in having the burden to prove their claim but no ability to actually gather the evidence necessary, unless they just happened to possess all the physical evidence and had legal authority over the witnesses, something that usually never exists.
Methods of Discovery in Oklahoma Litigation
In any lawsuit, the ability to discover and gather evidence will be governed by the states civil procedure or discovery code. If the lawsuit is in federal court, than the federal rules of evidence apply. Oklahoma’s rules closely resemble the Federal civil procedure and discovery rules. The Oklahoma Discovery Code specifically authorizes the use of the following methods:
- Requests for Production of Documents
- Request for Admissions
Methods of Written Discovery in Oklahoma
Interrogatories are written questions. In Oklahoma, a party may send up to thirty interrogatories to be answered by the opposing party. A party in receipt of interrogatories may object and identify the basis for the objection in the response. If there is a dispute that cannot be worked out, then the parties may ask a judge to intervene and rule on whether the question should or should not be answered.
2. Request for Production of Documents
The name says it all. These are requests for specific documents. But sometimes the request is generally for any and all documents relating to a certain subject. The same rules regarding interrogatories apply to requests for document production.
3. Subpoena Duces Tecum
If you need documents from a person ro entity that is not a party to the lawsuit (i.e., is not a plaintiff or defendant), you may still obtain the documents, but the procedure is different. In that case, you would send a Subpoena Duces Tecum, which directs the party to produce the documents needed in support of the litigation.
4. Request for Admissions
This is where you ask the opposing party to admit certain facts. The purpose of RFA’s is to get certain issues out of the way. Is there any dispute that the defendant ran a red light? No? Ok, then get that admitted and then you don’t need to spend any more time in discovery proving that fact.
If the fact is one that is disputed, the party requested the admission may be able to garner attorney fees if the fact is successfully proven at trial.
The policy behind Request for Admissions is to encourage parties to narrow down the issues for trial and stipulate to facts which are not in dispute.
However, RFA’s should be used only for fact questions, not legal conclusions. Therefore, it is improper to seek to get a party’s admission on a legal issue.
Methods for examining witnesses in Oklahoma
In Oklahoma, a party is permitted to examine, under oath, any witness and to have their testimony recorded either by video or by transcript. This is called a deposition.
In a deposition, the lawyer will take testimony of a witness. Lawyers on both sides of the case are allowed to ask the witness questions. Usually, a witness is “presented” by one side, while the opposing side asks questions. The lawyer who presented the witness may monitor the questioning and make any objections for the record.
Need Help with a Lawsuit? Contact an Experienced Oklahoma Trial Lawyer
Travis Charles Smith is an experienced trial lawyer based out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. You may call (405) 701-6016 or send us an email regarding your case.