The Law Applies To Everyone Except Me

, , | Legal | October 18, 2019

(I work as a legal assistant for a small civil litigation firm while in law school. Part of my job is to help clients answer “interrogatories,” i.e. official questions submitted by opposing counsel aimed at gathering potential evidence. Many of these questions can be quite complicated, but there are plenty of simple ones such as, “Please provide your previous addresses,” or, “Have you ever been a party to a lawsuit before?” In general, we forward the entire question list with instructions to the client to answer what they can and then return the list. I then revise their answers to what is legally relevant to the case, put in objections, and help with the remaining questions. These instructions also say, in big, bold letters in extra-large type, “YOU ARE LEGALLY OBLIGATED UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY TO ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY.” More often than not, the list is returned almost entirely blank, leading to exchanges such as these. An exchange from a landlord/tenant dispute:)

Me: “So, you’ve never lived anywhere else?”

Client #1: “Nope.”

Me: “But you’ve changed your address with us twice.”

Client #1: “Oh, well, then, put those in.”

Me: “Okay, I can do that. Do you have any addresses from before we started working on your case?”

Client #1: “Well, yeah, but I don’t remember them.”

Me: “Do you have any records that you can consult? Past bills, maybe?”

Client #1: “I guess. That’s a lot of work to go through them, though. Can’t I just not answer that one?”

Me: “No. No, you cannot.”

(Another exchange:)

Me: “I see your medical provider information is left blank. We need to fill this in.”

Client #2: “No.”

Me: “No?”

Client #2: “I don’t want them talking to my doctor. That’s not their business. Why are they asking for that?”

Me: “You’re claiming you were injured. They have to know who treated you so that they can get medical records related to the injury, because that is potentially evidence.”

Client #2: “What do you mean, my medical records are evidence?!”

(Another common exchange:)

Me: “This says you’ve never been involved in any other lawsuits. As I recall, you had a divorce a couple of years back, right?”

Client #3: “Oh, yeah. It was a huge mess. It took ages for our lawyers to iron that out. The judge got tired of hearing from us!” *laughs*

Me: “Okay, that counts as a lawsuit, so we’re going to need the information for that.”

Client #3: “Wait, that counts?”

(Yet another exchange:)

Me: *discussing a form with all of her information clearly filled in* “Why didn’t you sign the form we sent you?”

Client #4: “I didn’t think that applied to me.”

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