How to Obtain the Evidence You Need to Build or Defend Your Lawsuit
The discovery process is the heartbeat of a successful case. It's how you obtain evidence to support your claims or defenses at trial — and avoid or minimize surprises or “ambushes” by your opponent. Without admissible evidence — your case could be dismissed before ever going to trial.
Even worse, if another party requests discovery and you fail to meet your obligations — you could face steep monetary sanctions, limits on evidence you can use at trial — and even dismissal of your case.
If you are:
- Representing yourself in a lawsuit; or
- An attorney wanting to develop practical discovery skills;
You will want to study and apply Written Discovery: Investigating and Proving Claims and Defenses.
In this engaging video tutorial, litigation attorneys Neer Lerner and Elliott Malone share practical insights into the discovery process. Plus, they offer tools to help you investigate your claims, locate and obtain supporting documents, identify and question witnesses under oath, and comply with discovery requests from your opponent.
The Goals and Benefits of Discovery
Discovery isn't only about obtaining facts, documents, testimony, and other physical evidence to support your claims or defenses.
Skillfully conducted discovery can also help you achieve the following three goals:
- Lock in your opponent's (or a witness') versions of facts so you can use it to discredit their testimony at trial if they testify inconsistently;
- Preserve evidence when a party or witness may be unavailable to testify due to illness or death; and
- Discover weaknesses in your opponent's case (or even your own!) so you can weigh (and sometimes reconsider) your chances of getting the favorable outcome you desire at trial.
Discovery Topics Discussed
This video litigation tutorial will cover the following topics to help you identify, request, and obtain evidence — and gather facts and testimony — you will need for trial:
- The Scope and Limits of Discovery: As a general rule, the scope of discovery is very broad. However, it is subject to certain limitations, including legal privileges, privacy rights, and more. We will delve into these limitations so you don’t waste time pursuing documents or evidence you’re likely not entitled to. Plus, you'll learn to identify what information you can legally request and obtain from your opponent
- Common Types of Discovery Requests: You'll learn how to use seven tools of discovery (interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admission, subpoenas, disclosures, depositions, and more) to obtain the evidence you need — with sample discovery requests and responses.
- Crafting Effective Discovery Requests: When drafting discovery requests, you must keep in mind your ultimate objective: to win your case. A quality discovery request will help you meet that goal more efficiently. You'll learn how to write polished discovery requests that are easy to understand — so you can get the documents or evidence you want — and leave as little “wiggle” room as possible for your opponent.
- Responding (and Objecting) to Discovery Requests: Learn ways to respond, answer, and object to discovery requests — including common grounds for objecting — and other essential tips to help you protect your case while fully complying with your discovery obligations.
- Crafting — and Responding to — Requests for Admission: Requests for admission require special attention because they can establish facts for use as evidence at trial. You will learn tips for crafting and responding to requests for admission to "lock in" critical testimony and positions — and help you protect yourself from inadvertently admitting to something false or denying an allegation that later proves to be true — thereby discrediting your testimony.
- How to Appropriately Deal with Discovery Disputes: If your opponent's discovery responses are inadequate, incomplete, evasive, or non-existent, you'll probably need to take some action or steps to get them to comply. You'll learn methods to demand (and obtain) your opponent's compliance with discovery requests — and how (and when) to file a motion and involve the court.
In addition to video instruction, you will have access to the following sample PDF discovery documents that can inspire your own discovery:
- Responses to Interrogatories
- Requests for Admission
- Responses to Requests for Admission
- Requests for Production of Documents
- Responses to Requests for Production of Documents
- Request for Inspection of Land
- "Meet and Confer" Correspondence
- Motion to Compel Responses to Discovery
Review the sample documents and study the material in Written Discovery: Investigating and Proving Claims and Defenses, and you will gain practical insights — and an understanding of discovery—that can empower you to procure the evidence you need, skillfully respond (and object) to requests, and identify weaknesses in your or your opponent's case.
Don't leave the discovery process to chance. Learn the steps to support your case with the facts, testimony, and documents you will need to prove your claims or defenses.
For more information about discovery, check out Depositions 101: Techniques and Strategies.