Stephen Warne on professional negligence, regulation and discipline around the world

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Interrogatories

September 14th, 2009 · No Comments

Interrogatories are powerful.  They are also out of fashion, partly because no party interrogated ever answers them properly, occasioning a post-discovery hiatus when a trial might otherwise be set down.  In the Supreme Court, you get 42 days to answer. Then compelling proper answers takes weeks more, and suddenly a great deal of time has been taken up.  If you commit to interrogating, you had better commit to an application to compel answers.

It’s important, as Associate Justice Evans and Justice Byrne reminded my client recently, not to ask too many questions.  Unjustifiable prolixity is a form of oppression which grounds proper objection to answering. When preparing for the hearing at which my client was reminded of this important precept, I read too many 19th century cases about interrogatories cited by Williams.  It’s not often you find a recent Court of Appeal decision about interrogatories.  So I thought I would note LS v Rolan Semaarn Salon Pty Ltd [2009] VSCA 201.  The plaintiff sought damages for psychiatric harm she said was the result of the stressful circumstances of her employment.  The employer said drugs consumed at night clubs were the problem.  The employer asked the plaintiff whether she had used marijuana or ice at the relevant time.  Associate Justice Gardiner, Justice Kyrou, and Acting Justice of Appeal Beach with whom Justice of Appeal Mandie agreed all held that the employee had to answer the interrogatories.  Of course they were not saying she had to elect between yes and no.  Taking the privilege against self-incrimination remains an option.

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