An interrogatory is a written question on a relevant issue, submitted by one of the parties in a civil proceeding to the other before the trial, requiring a written response, usually on oath. Interrogatories are part of the discovery process, and may be tendered as evidence to support the case of the inquirer.
Interrogatories are dealt with under the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules in Part 22 (applies to the Supreme Court, District Court, and the General Division of the Local Court).
Interrogatories must be applied for and approved via an order of the court before they are required to be answered by the other side. They can be applied for at any time, but the order will not be made unless the court is satisfied that it is ‘necessary’.
‘Necessary’ has been interpreted by case law to mean “necessary for the disposing fairly of the matter” and necessary “in the interests of a fair trial”.
The follow types of interrogatories will not be ordered:
• Interrogatories seeking admissions on legal matters
• Interrogatories seeking admissions regarding the application of a legal standard
• Interrogatories which assumes the same answer would be given irrespective of context
• Interrogatories which relate purely to credibility
Parties may object to an interrogatory on three bases:
(a) The interrogatory does not relate to any matter in issue between the parties
(b) The interrogatory is oppressive or vexatious
(c) The answer to the interrogatory could disclose privileged information