Discovery: Investigating Your Nursing Home Case

The method by which you investigate the opposing party in your nursing home abuse case is called discovery. It allows you to go behind enemy lines and search for clues of misconduct and other explanations for your client’s injuries. There is a common set of tools you will utilize in your discovery and there are certain rules surrounding the use of all of them. Here is a brief review of all of them with examples from Illinois nursing home cases.

Interrogatories

Interrogatories permit you to ask a question to the other party and compel an answer with certain restrictions related to relevance surrounding the nursing home case. However, you are limited in how many questions you can ask. You can only ask 30 questions (including any sub-parts). Therefore, you have to carefully craft them to get answers regarding liability, scienter, and control. Generally, the party receiving interrogatories has about 28 days to respond unless the court or both sides determine more time is appropriate. Also, you must send a copy of the entire set of interrogatories to all parties entitled to notice-not just the party you are asking questions. For more information, see Illinois Supreme Court Rule 213. Here are some sample nursing home interrogatories:

Depositions

Depositions allows you to examine parties (by notice) and witnesses (by subpoena) for evidentiary or discovery purposes. If a distinction is not made, however, they will be classified as discovery depositions which has implications on their use at trial. Of course, the primary goals of depositions should be to gather more strength for your argument as well as to look for areas of impeachment to be used at trial later. However, it is important to be direct and not allow the person being examined to evade your line of questioning. While capped at 3 hours, depositions should give you the change to go into greater depth on the witness’ background and role in the nursing home incident. For more information, see Illinois Supreme Court Rule 202-207 and 210. Here are some sample nursing home depositions:

Requests for Production

Another extremely useful tool in discovery is the request to produce. This allows to actually compel the other party to give you documents, access to property, items, or even information if you can establish that it is relevant to your nursing home case. Then, within 28 days (or more if the judge determines), the party has to produce what you requested or persuade the judge it is not relevant to the case at hand. Furthermore, the party producing has an ongoing obligation to “seasonably supplement” the production has it becomes necessary over time if circumstances change. The party requesting production must give notice to all parties entitled of the requests actually served. For more information on requests to produce, see Illinois Supreme Court Rule 214. Here is a sample request for production from a nursing home case:

Requests for Admission

Another useful tool that plaintiffs’ lawyers in nursing home cases have at their disposal is the request to admit. These lets you compel the other side to either admit or deny items related to the case. They should be crafted to narrow your focus and more effectively use other discovery tools. Again, you are limited in number though and, like with interrogatories, you are capped at 30 requests to admit. Also, the opposing party must respond within 28 days unless a different time frame is reached by both sides or by the judge. For more information on requests to admit, see Illinois Supreme Court Rule 216. Here is a sample request to admit from an Illinois nursing home case:

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