Interrogatory Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Interrogatory, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Interrogatory?

The formal and written question to the witness or the party of the lawsuit, from whom the answer is required in a specified time in writing and under the oath.

History and Meaning of Interrogatory

Interrogatories are a formal set of written questions used in a legal proceeding. The history of interrogatories dates back to at least medieval England. Historically, lawyers would use interrogatories to obtain information about the other party's claims or defenses. Today, interrogatories are an essential part of pretrial discovery, allowing parties to obtain information from each other prior to trial.

An interrogatory can be used to ask any question that is relevant to a legal dispute. However, the questions must be phrased carefully to avoid objections such as "vagueness," "overbreadth," or "oppression." An interrogatory is typically answered in writing, under oath, and within a specific timeframe.

Examples of Interrogatory

  1. In a divorce case, one party may use interrogatories to obtain information about the other party's assets, debts, and income.
  2. In a personal injury lawsuit, an interrogatory might be used to ask the plaintiff about the details of their injuries and medical treatment.
  3. In a breach of contract lawsuit, an interrogatory could be used to ask the defendant about the specific terms of the contract and their reasons for breaching it.

Legal Terms Similar to Interrogatory

  • Discovery: The process by which parties obtain information from each other prior to trial, including through the use of interrogatories.
  • Subpoena: A legal order that requires a person to produce documents or testify in court.
  • deposition: Similar to an interrogatory, a deposition is a formal procedure where a witness is questioned under oath in the presence of attorneys from both sides.
  • Request for Admission: A set of written statements asking the opposing party to admit or deny certain facts.