Court Orders a Litigant to Answer Contention Interrogatories

February 8, 2012

Contention interrogatories highlight the critical role of timing in the work product doctrine context. No one would expect a court to order litigants to answer such interrogatories early in the discovery process, but at some point every litigant obviously must disclose its contentions.

In Pouncil v. Branch Law Firm, Civ. A. No. 10-1314-JTM-DJW, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 143227 (D. Kan. Dec. 13, 2011), defendants in a legal malpractice case asked the court to delay their obligation to answer contention interrogatories until completion of discovery. The court acknowledged that Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(a)(2) allows courts to take that step. However, the court ordered the defendants to answer plaintiff’s contention interrogatories “as fully as they can, keeping in mind their continuing obligation to supplement their discovery responses as additional or different information becomes available.” Id. at *18.

In most litigation, courts insist that both sides answer contention interrogatories at about the same time – which often deters both litigants from filing such interrogatories earlier than they are prepared to answer such interrogatories themselves.