Discovery: What is It?
Oct. 3, 2022
Why is it important? Because unlike what we see on TV, litigants can actually discover evidence in the case before trial.
How can it help when you and/or your business has been sued? Discovery tools include depositions (statements under oath), written requests for documents, interrogatives (written questions), requests for admissions and subpoenas, all designed to gather evidence which can help you better assess your situation.
Most likely you have heard the phrase “we need to find that needle in the haystack” or the “devil is in the details.” Discovery enables you to locate the needle or the devil.
Discovery is the process of searching for evidence which establishes who is actively responsible for what occurred, although the allegations in a lawsuit assert otherwise.
In Oklahoma the rules governing discovery together with the authorized procedures available are set forth in the Oklahoma Discovery Code.
The proper use of Discovery can help you find that needle in the haystack or the devil in the details. Locating this key information can redirect claims and allegations asserted in a lawsuit away from you and/or your business and redirect same towards others who are the responsible actors and/or entities.
Consider the case where a concrete subcontractor was sued after installing concrete steps in a commercial building. The subcontractor had been in business for thirty-two (32) years and performed many high profile projects, all without incident or involvement in a lawsuit. Nonetheless, the general contractor sued the subcontractor and alleged breach of contract and negligence. Careful use of the discovery process enabled the subcontractor to establish responsibility actually rested with others whom the general contractor chose not to make defendants in the lawsuit, apparently to avoid jeopardizing their long standing business relationships and the risk of losing future business.
The Discovery Process in that case generated over thirty thousand (30,000) documents which were obtained from the architects, engineers, the owner of the commercial building, its inspectors, the design company, and others. The documents were instrumental in establishing how the entities who were not sued failed to perform their duties and responsibilities which contributed to the problem the building owner claimed it experienced.
It was the discovery obtained from the general contractor that contained the needle in the haystack. A one sentence internal email from the general contractor stated responsibility for the alleged problem rested with them, (and not the subcontractor), and cautioned everyone to be more observant in the future.
Having a thoughtful, orderly, and judicious discovery plan enabled the subcontractor to direct responsibility to those who actually failed to fulfill their commitments. In addition, the discovery obtained further strengthened the affirmative defenses raised by the subcontractor and enabled them to achieve a favorable outcome.
Wagner Stuart PLLC has knowledge and experience utilizing the Oklahoma Discovery Code in an efficient manner for the advancements of its client’s position and interests.