Fighting Incomplete Interrogatory Answers

“Pretrial discovery is not intended as a game.” Robinson v. Weiland, 988 So.2d 1110, 1113 (Fla. 5th DCA 2008).

 Applicable Standards Governing Interrogatories

An interrogatory “may relate to any matters that can be inquired into under rule 1.280(b).” Fla. R. Civ. Pro. 1.340(b); see also Amente v. Newman, 653 So.2d 1030, 1032 (Fla. 1995) (“The concept of relevancy is broader in the discovery context than in the trial context.”).   Once provided, each interrogatory “shall be answered separately and fully in writing,” Fla. R. Civ. Pro. 1.340(a), and a “party shall respond to such an interrogatory by giving the information the party has and the source on which the information is based.” Fla. R. Civ. Pro. 1.340(b).   An answer to an interrogatory is complete when it appears both complete and responsive. State Road Dept. v. Fla. East Coast Ry., 212 So.2d 315, 317 (Fla. 3d DCA 1968).  Further, because the interrogating party is entitled to a sworn answer, the answer to an interrogatory “must be complete in itself and should not refer to other pleadings or documents or affidavits and thereby attempt to make their content a part of the answer.” Id; see also Herold v. Computer Components, Int’l, Inc.,  252 So.2d 576 (Fla. 4th DCA 1971) (the answer must be specific and should not refer to other responses); Summit Chase Condo. Ass’n, Inc. v. Protean Investors, Inc., 421 So.2d 562, 563-64 (Fla. 3d DCA 1982) (answering party not entitled to attach a large document to answers to interrogatories and refer to such document in response to the interrogatories.).

Evasive and incomplete answers can be  “tantamount to a refusal to answer,” and, pursuant to Fla. R. Civ. Pro. 1.380, a court is “justified in issuing an order either compelling a party to answer or compelling a party to submit a more complete answer.” Herold,  252 So.2d at 580.

Attorneys Fees and Other Expenses

Fla. R. Civ. Pro. 1.380(1)(4) requires “the party . . . whose conduct necessitated the motion or the party or counsel advising the conduct to pay to the moving party the reasonable expenses incurred in obtaining the order that may include attorneys’ fees” unless the court finds that the opposition was justified.  Despite that mandate courts frequently reserve on awarding fees until disposition of all discovery matters or adjudictaion of the dispute.  However, a party expecting to seek fees should be able to establish the lack of justification of the opposition (in which pre-hearing good faith efforts to resolve the disputes may assist significantly) as well as accounting for the attorney’s fees spent on discovery dispute.

The foregoing is not intended as legal advices and is provided for informational purposes only.

© Stewart M. Cooke P.A., 2010 All rights reserved.