Interrogatories, definitions and instructions to defendant in a slip and fall accident lawsuit

Interrogatories, definitions and instructions to defendant in a slip and fall accident lawsuit

Before the trial of a slip and fall accident lawsuit can begin, the parties to the lawsuit must investigate the allegations and claimed defenses. The formal, legal process of investigation is called “discovery.” Discovery includes interrogatories – written questions and answers – and the production of documents and other relevant items.

Sample definitions and instructions

Interrogatories and requests for production generally contain definitions and instructions that allow the use of broad terms, such as “the incident,” or “the premises,” to be used as a substitute for a detailed description of the events giving rise to the slip and fall lawsuit. Detailed definitions and instructions help to avoid a “vagueness” objection from the responding party, which only delays the progress of the lawsuit. A sample set of Definitions and Instructions follows. An experienced slip and fall accident lawyer would adapt these to fit the applicable rules and laws of the jurisdiction and the facts of the specific case.

DEFINITIONS AND INSTRUCTIONS

A. As used herein, the term “you,” “your,” or “Defendant” shall mean [name of Defendant], as well as its attorneys, agents, employees, and all other natural persons or business or legal entities acting, or purporting to act, for or on its behalf whether authorized to do so or not.

B. When used herein, “Plaintiff” means [name of Plaintiff].

C. When used herein, “incident” means the slip and fall accident made the basis of this suit as more fully described in plaintiff’s complaint, involving the injuries and damages sustained by [name of plaintiff] on or about [date of incident].

D. The term “documents” or “tangible things,” pursuant to [specify rule, statute or case law upon which definition is based], shall mean papers, books, accounts, drawings, graphs, charts, photographs, electronic or video recordings, data and data compilations, including electronic and magnetic data pursuant to [specify rule, statute or case law permitting discovery of computer and electronic data, if applicable], that constitute or contain matters relevant to the subject matter of the action.

E. The term “Person” shall include individuals, associations, partnerships, corporations, joint ventures, proprietorships, agencies, boards, commissions, governmental entities, and any other institutions whether formed for business purposes or any other purposes and the officers, representatives, employees, and agents of such associations, partnerships, public or private corporation, joint ventures, proprietorships, agencies, boards, commissions, governmental entities, and institutions.

F. The term “Identify” shall refer to the meaning as defined in the [specify rule, statute or case law upon which definition is based]:

  1. When used in reference to persons or other entities, the term identify shall mean to state the name, address, and telephone number.
  2. When used in reference to documents or other tangible evidence or things, pursuant to [specify rule, statute or case law upon which definition is based], the term identify shall mean to state the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, location, and contents of documents and tangible things that constitute or contain matters relevant to the subject matter of the action that is within Defendants’ possession, custody, or control. Pursuant to [specify rule, statute or case law upon which definition is based], the documents and tangible things must be specified in sufficient detail to permit the Plaintiffs to locate and identify them as readily as can the Defendants.

G. Pursuant to [specify rule, statute or case law permitting discovery of computer and electronic data, if applicable], plaintiff specifically requests production of all electronic or magnetic data in the form of a disk or other similar medium, in addition to all written forms, that are responsive to these interrogatories and requests for production and are reasonably available to the Defendants in its ordinary course of business.

H. “Possession,” “Custody,” or “Control” of an item means that the person either has physical possession of the item or has a right to possession of the item that is equal or superior to the person who has physical possession of the item.

I. “Premises” means the location where the slip and fall accident occurred that has been made the basis of this suit as more fully described in plaintiff’s complaint as [address or other description of premises/location].

Sample interrogatories

The following are sample interrogatories that were designed by an experienced plaintiff’s attorney to gather appropriate information about the causation of the slip and fall accident/incident and any possible defenses the defendant might have. These interrogatories are general in form and can be tailored to the particular facts of your case.

INTERROGATORIES

1. Identify yourself, giving your full name, your residence, your business address, your occupation, and, if applicable, your job title or position with the defendant.

2. Give the date, hour, and minute (if possible) that the alleged slip and fall accident/incident happened.

3. Was the defendant the owner of the premises when the alleged slip and fall accident/incident happened?

4. Was the defendant in control of the premises when the alleged slip and fall accident/incident happened?

5. If your answer to interrogatory number 3 or 4 is in the affirmative, describe:
(a) the period of time the defendant was the owner of the premises,
(b) the period of time the defendant was in control of the premises, and
(c) whether the defendant was on the premises at the time of the alleged accident/incident.

6. State fully and completely how the alleged accident/incident happened, providing in your answer a complete chronology of events.

7. Identify each and every person known to you who
(a) witnessed the accident/incident,
(b) was in the vicinity of the accident/incident, or
(c) was on the premises at the time of the accident/incident. After each name, list the person’s address and relationship, if any, to the defendant.

8. If any one of the persons listed in interrogatory #7 is an agent or employee of the defendant, list;
(a) his position;
(b) the period of time during which he held the position; (c) his duties;
(d) the extent of what he saw, heard, or noticed regarding the accident/ incident;
(e) his location in relation to the place of the accident/incident; and
(f) the statements, either oral or written, given by him concerning the accident/incident, including to whom the statement was given, in what form it was given, and who is its present custodian.

9. Describe in as much detail as possible all actions or activities of the plaintiff from the time you (or any agent or employee of the defendant) first observed or noticed the plaintiff on the premises until the slip and fall accident/incident.

10. Describe in as much detail as possible each action or activity of the plaintiff that you or any of your agents or employees observed during the alleged accident/incident.

11. Describe in detail all actions or activities of the plaintiff as observed by you or any of your agents or employees after the alleged slip and fall accident/incident.

12. Did you or any of your agents or employees render any assistance or support of any kind to the plaintiff after the alleged slip and fall accident/incident?

13. If your answer to the preceding interrogatory is in the affirmative, describe:
(a) what kind of assistance or help was given to the plaintiff,
(b) the name and address of each person rendering assistance, and
(c) whether the person rendering assistance has any special medical or emergency skills or training.

14. Give a detailed account of the plaintiffs appearance prior to the alleged accident/incident, describing:
(a) his physical condition;
(b) his apparent emotional or mental condition;
(c) his clothing; and
(d) any unusual actions or mannerisms.

15. Give a detailed account of the plaintiff’s appearance immediately after the alleged accident/incident, describing:
(a) his physical condition, including any apparent signs of injury, bleeding, bruises, cuts or abrasions;
(b) his apparent emotional or mental condition (e.g., whether he was crying, screaming, talking, complaining of pain, requesting help); and
(c) the appearance of his clothing (torn, dirty, disheveled, neat).

16. Describe as fully as possible any statements, either oral or written, given to you, or to any of the defendant’s agents or employees, by the plaintiff at the time of the alleged accident/incident, specifying:
(a) whether the statement was oral or written;
(b) to whom it was given;
(c) the name and address of the person to whom it was given;
(d) the substance of the statement; and
(e) who, if the statement is in written or recorded form, is its present custodian.

17. Describe in as much detail as possible the actual place or location of the alleged slip and fall accident/incident on the defendant’s premises, specifying
(a) all identifying aspects of the place or location, including distances in feet to other fixed objects;
(b) boundaries;
(c) the general condition of the place or location; and
(d) whether the place or location was under the control of the defendant or his agents or employees at the time of the accident/incident.

18. In reference to the (rug, carpet, mat, stairway or step) involved in the plaintiff’s alleged slip and fall accident, describe:
(a) its appearance, condition, and purpose (include its color, length, width, thickness, age and worn spots);
(b) how it was fastened or attached to the defendant’s premises;
(c) the date it was first built or installed;
(d) the name and address of the person, firm, or corporation which built or installed it;
(e) the plaintiffs position on or near it immediately preceding the accident/incident;
(f) the plaintiffs position on or near it at the moment of the accident/ incident; and
(g) the plaintiffs position on or near it immediately following the accident/incident.

19. State all factors or events which you believe caused or contributed to the cause of the plaintiffs alleged accident.

20. If there was any defect, defective condition, foreign substance, or foreign object in or on the (rug, carpet, mat, stairway, or step) which caused or contributed to the plaintiffs alleged accident/incident describe:
(a) the defect, defective condition, foreign substance or foreign object as fully as possible;
(b) how the (rug, carpet, mat, stairway or step) came to have such defect, defective condition, foreign substance or foreign object;
(c) how the defect, defective condition, foreign substance, or foreign object caused the plaintiff’s injury;
(d) to what extent the plaintiff’s injury was caused by such defect, defective condition, foreign substance, or foreign object;
(e) any other factors or events which caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s injury; and
(f) whether the defendant or any of his agents or employees knew of the defective condition, for how long each knew of it, and who told him of it.

21. At any time did any person give you, or any of your agents or employees, any written or oral warnings, signals, notices or statements detailing any difficulty or trouble with the (rug, carpet, mat, stairway or step)?

22. Describe fully and completely all arrangements the defendant, or any of his agents or employees, had for the care and maintenance of the premises at the time of the alleged slip and fall accident/incident.

23. State fully and completely whether the arrangements set forth in the preceding interrogatory conform to the usual arrangements made by the defendant, or his agents or employees, for the care and maintenance of the premises.

24. At any time prior to the accident/incident, did you, or any of the defendant’s agents or employees, make any examination, inspection, or test of the place or location where the accident/incident occurred?

25. At any time after the alleged accident/incident, did you, or any of the defendant’s agents or employees, make any examination, inspection, or test of the place or location where the accident/incident occurred?

26. If your answer to either of the two preceding interrogatories is in the affirmative; detail for each examination, inspection, or test:
(a) the date and time it was made;
(b) the procedures used for making it;
(c) the names and addresses of all persons making it;
(d) the qualifications of all persons making it;
(e) what it encompassed or included;
(f) what it revealed;
(g) whether any reports, either oral or written, were made as a result of it;
(h) the contents of each report; and
(i) if in written or recorded form, the present custodian of each report.

27. List everything that you or any of the defendant’s agents or employees did to avoid the alleged slip and fall accident/incident.

28. Describe the weather at the time of the alleged accident/incident.

29. Describe the lighting and light conditions at the time of the alleged accident/incident, specifying whether the lighting was natural, artificial or both.

30. If there was neither natural nor artificial lighting at the place and location of the accident/incident, was there a reason for the absence of lighting?

31. Give the substance of all conversations, and of any written or oral communications or statements, made by the plaintiff to you, to any of your agents or employees, or to your insurance carrier, concerning the alleged slip and fall accident/incident. In reference to the same, describe:
(a) to whom the statement was given,
(b) when it was given,
(c) whether it is in written or oral form, and
(d) if in written or recorded form, who is its present custodian.

32. Did you, any of your agents or employees, your insurance carrier, or your legal representative ever take or receive any oral or written statement from any person who witnessed the accident/incident, or who has any information or knowl¬edge about it? If so, specify:
(a) the nature of the statement,
(b) the person giving the statement,
(c) the person receiving the statement,
(d) the person taking the statement,
(e) the substance of the statement,
(f) the date of the statement, and
(g) if the statement is in written or recorded form, who is its present custodian.

33. List the name, address, qualifications and area of expertise of each expert witness you intend to call at trial; summarize each opinion that will be given; and specify the facts upon which each opinion is based.

34. Did you, or any of your agents or employees, ever receive any form of no¬tice, either written or oral, from the plaintiff, or from anyone acting on behalf of the plaintiff, concerning the alleged accident/incident? If so, detail:
(a) the date of its receipt,
(b) the method by which the notice was given,
(c) the name and address of the recipient of the notice,
(d) the substance of the notice,
(e) any response made thereto,
(f) the person responding thereto,
(g) the substance of the response, and
(h) the date of the response.

35. Does the defendant contend that the plaintiff, by any of his acts or omissions, in any way caused or contributed to his alleged slip and fall accident/ incident?

36. Is it the defendant’s contention that the plaintiff in any way assumed the risk of his injuries?

37. If your answer to either of the two preceding interrogatories is in the affirmative, state in detail every fact upon which you base your contention that the plaintiff caused or contributed to his alleged accident/incident or that he assumed the risk of his injuries. In reference to each such act or omission by the plaintiff give as much detail as possible as to how each act or omission caused or contributed to the alleged accident.

Plaintiff
By His Attorneys,

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