Legal Memorandum: Refusal to Answer Interrogatories

Issue: Is a party’s refusal to answer interrogatories, based on the objection that the information is more appropriately obtained in a deposition, improper and nonresponsive?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Interrogatories; Refusal to answer; Improper and nonresponsive
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 1; Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(d); Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(d)(1)
Date: 08/01/2001

Although a party might prefer to have the questions asked in a deposition, it must nevertheless answer the interrogatories “separately and fully in writing under oath.”  Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(1) (emphasis added). The Federal Rules simply do not provide the parties with their choice to answer in some other fashion.  Thus, a party must be compelled to provide written answers to the interrogatories; oral deposition answers in lieu of written answers is not an option.

When one court was presented with this objection in a wrongful termination case, it flatly rejected it.  In Oleson v. Kmart Corp., 175 F.R.D. 560, 565 (D. Kan. 1997), the plaintiff sought basic information about his employment history, job positions, and duties, and information about current levels of compensation and benefits.  175 F.R.D. at 563.  The defendant responded that it would provide the facts “at a mutually agreeable date and time.”  Id.  The court refused to hear the defendant’s argument that the information was already provided in a deposition.  Id. at 564.

Providing information through deposition does not satisfy the requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P. 33 and does not answer an interrogatory.  Plaintiff is entitled to defendant’s answer to the interrogatories submitted.  Defendant offers no explanation as to why the requested information was not provided for almost four months after the original answers to the interrogatories were served.  The requested facts are basic information which was easily available to the defendant and is required in almost every employment case.

Id. […]

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