So, You’re in a Lawsuit, What is “Discovery”?

In the state of South Carolina “discovery” is a pretrial process in which each party through the rules of civil procedure can obtain evidence from the other side. Even though engaging in discovery can add to the expense of a case, learning about the other sides case and being forced to reveal certain aspects of your own case can increase the chances of reaching a settlement agreement. Since both sides can have a better idea of what “facts” each side will try to prove at trial, each side will have the ability to weigh how strong their case is in relation to the other side. Additionally, discovery makes trial less of a “surprise affair” and more of an equal contest with the basic issues and underlying facts disclosed at an earlier date.


There are basically five types of discovery in civil trials: 1) interrogatories; 2) Requests for Production of documents; 3) requests for admissions; 4) depositions; and 5) subpoenas duces tecum.


Interrogatories. Interrogatories are written questions that may be asked of the other party with responses required to be in writing and under oath. These answers can be used as evidence by the other party at trial.


Requests for Production. Requests for production are designed to allow one party to seek documents from the other party. The other party is required to make available for copying documents that are in his or her “possession, custody, or control.” Therefore, even documents that are not in a party’s possession but are within his or her control (such as banking or medical records) must be made available for copying. Sometimes the way these records will be made available is by providing the party requesting the documents a release that allows that party to obtain the records from a third-party.


Requests for Admission. Requests for admissions require the other party to admit or deny specific facts or to admit or deny the authenticity of the documents. It is often helpful to have the authenticity of document admitted prior to trial so that one can determine whether to call witnesses to authenticate these documents.


Depositions. Depositions allow a party to have any witness (including the opposing party) answer questions orally and under oath. Because one must pay the court reporter for attending the deposition (and transcribing the deposition if desired) and one must pay for one’s attorney to prepare for and attend the deposition, depositions can be extremely expensive. Depositions are best reserved for cases in which there are substantial disputes and the parties have sufficient funds to take them.


Subpoenas Duces Tecum. Subpoena duces tecum are similar to requests for production or inspection except that they may be sent to non-parties. They are especially useful for getting medical records, banking, and credit card records. They are most useful for obtaining records that a party would ordinarily not have in his or her custody or control, such as employment records or personnel records.


Discovery tools are vital in understanding the other party’s case and preparing for trial. Confronting discovery head on can be an complex and stressful situation. The lawyers at King Law are here to help, and will be glad to sit down with you face to face to discuss your situation and determine the best possible approach to your lawsuit. You don’t have to deal with this stressful situation on your own, here at King Law we understand that we aren’t just your lawyer, but also your adviser and confidant.


King Law Offices is a full-service law firm with an outstanding team of professionals who work diligently, creatively and compassionately on behalf of our clients each day.  We serve the Upstate of South Carolina and Western North Carolina.  Call 888-748-KING (5464) today for a free consultation.