Wisconsin Discovery Law

Evidence – Discovery – Wisconsin

Note: This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive summary of discovery law in Wisconsin, but does include basic and other information.

Definitions

Discovery: A procedure designed to allow disclosure of information between Plaintiffs and Defendants. Written questions, oral questioning, document production and admissions requests are generally allowed. Discovery was designed to to prevent trial by ambush.

Interrogatories: Written questions from Plaintiff to Defendant, or from Defendant to Plaintiff. The questions are mailed to the Plaintiff, Defendant or the attorney for response in writing. The answers or responses are usually due between 20-30 days.

Deposition: A procedure where verbal questions are asked a Plaintiff or Defendant for immediate response. Depositions are usually recorded by a court reporter, who swears the person to tell the truth before questioning begins.

Production of Documents: The method of obtaining documents from the other party relevant to the case such as all documents a party intends to introduce at trial.

Requests for Admissions: Written questions where you request the other party to admit or deny some relevant fact.

Objections: Objections may be made to all discovery questions if the questions are not relevant, or likely to lead to the discovery of relevant evidence.

Civil Procedure Rules: Virtually all states have adopted a version of civil procedure rules which include rules dealing with discovery.

Wisconsin Rules of Civil Procedure

The Wisconsin Rules of Civil Procedure are contained in the Wisconsin Statutes, Chapters 801-807. The discovery rules are specifically found in Chapter 804. The discovery rules also apply in divorce actions.

Discovery Methods: Parties may obtain discovery by one or more of the following methods: depositions upon oral examination or written questions; written interrogatories; production of documents or things or permission to enter upon land or other property, for inspection and other purposes; physical and mental examinations; and requests for admission. Unless the court orders otherwise under sub. (3), and except as provided in section 804.015, the frequency of use of these methods is not limited. Rule 804.01(1)

Scope: Unless otherwise limited by order of the court in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, the scope ofdiscovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action, whether it relates to the claim or defense of the party seeking discovery or to the claim or defense of any other party, including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition and location of any books, documents, or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons having knowledge of any discoverable matter. It is not ground for objection that the information sought will be inadmissible at the trial if the information sought appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Rule 804.01(2)

Experts:Discovery of facts known and opinions held by experts, otherwise discoverable under paragraph(a) and acquired or developed in anticipation of litigation or for trial, may be obtained as follows:

1. A party may through written interrogatories require any other party to identify each person whom the other party expects to call as an expert witness at trial. A party may depose any person who has been identified as an expert whose opinions may be presented at trial. Upon motion, the court may order further discovery by other means, subject to such restrictions as to scope and such provisions, pursuant to subd. 3. concerning fees and expenses as the court considers appropriate. Rule 804.01(2)(d)1

2. A party may, through written interrogatories or by deposition,discover facts known or opinions held by an expert who has been retained or specially employed by another party in anticipation of litigation or preparation for trial and who is not expected to be called as a witness at trial only upon motion showing that exceptional circumstances exist under which it is impracticable for the party seeking discovery to obtain facts or opinions on the same subject by other means. Rule 804.01(2)(d)2

3. Unless manifest injustice would result, the court shall require that the party seeking discovery pay the expert a reasonable fee for the time spent in responding to discovery under the last sentence of subdivisions 1 and 2; and with respect to discovery obtained under the last sentence of subdivison 1, the court may require, and with respect to discovery obtained under subdivision 2, the court shall require, the party seeking discovery to pay the other party a fair portion of the fees and expenses reasonably incurred by the latter party in obtaining facts and opinions from the expert.

Rule 804.01(2)(d)3

Sequence and Timing of Discovery:Unless the court upon motion,for the convenience of parties and witnesses and in the interests ofjustice, orders otherwise, methods of discovery may be used in anysequence and the fact that a party is conducting discovery, whether by deposition or otherwise, shall not operate to delay any other party’s discovery. Rule 804.01(4)

Supplementation of Responses: A party who has responded to a request for discovery with a response that was complete when made is under no duty to supplement the response to include information thereafter acquired, except as follows:

(a) A party is under a duty seasonably to supplement the party’sresponse with respect to any question directly addressed to all of the following:

1. The identity and location of persons having knowledge of discoverable matters.

2. The identity of each person expected to be called as an expert witness at trial.

(b) A party is under a duty seasonably to amend a prior response if the party obtains information upon the basis of which 1. the party knows that the response was incorrect when made, or 2. the party knows that the response though correct when made is no longer true and the circumstances are such that a failure to amend the response is in substance a knowing concealment.

(c) A duty to supplement responses may be imposed by order of the court, agreement of the parties, or at any time prior to trial through new requests for supplementation of prior responses.

Rule 804.01(5)

Depositions

Before Whom Depositions May Be Taken: Within the United States or within a territory or insular possession subject to the dominion of the United States, depositions shall be taken before an officer authorized to administer oaths by the laws of the United States or of this state or of the place where the examination is held, or before a person appointed by the court in which the action is pending. A person so appointed has power to administer oaths and take testimony. 804.03(1)

In a foreign country, depositions may be taken (a) on notice before a person authorized to administer oaths in the place in which the examination is held, either by the law thereof or by the law of the United States, or (b) before a person commissioned by the court, and a person so commissioned shall have the power by virtue of the commission to administer any necessary oath and take testimony, or (c) pursuant to a letter rogatory. A commission or a letter rogatory shall be issued on motion and notice and on terms that are just and appropriate. It is not requisite to the issuance of a commission or a letter rogatory that the taking of the deposition in any other manner is impracticable or inconvenient; and both a commission and a letter rogatory may be issued in proper cases. A notice or commission may designate the person before whom the deposition is to be taken either by name or descriptive title. A letter rogatory may be addressed “To the Appropriate Authority in (here name the country)”. Evidence obtained in response to a letter rogatory need not be excluded merely for the reason that it is not a verbatim transcript or that the testimony was not taken under oath or for any similar departure from the requirements for depositions taken within the United States under this chapter. Rule 804.03(2)

Stipulations: Unless the court orders otherwise, the parties may by written stipulation (1) provide that depositions may be taken before any person, at any time or place, upon any notice, and in any manner and when so taken may be used like other depositions, and (2) modify the procedures provided by this chapter for other methods of discovery.

Rule 804.04

Interrogatories

(a) Except as provided in section 804.015, any party may serve upon any other party written interrogatories to be answered by the party served, or, if the party served is a public or private corporation or a limited liability company or a partnership or an association or a governmental agency or a state officer in an action arising out of the officer’s performance of employment, by any officer or agent, who shall furnish such information as is available to the party. Interrogatories may, without leave of court, be served upon the plaintiff after commencement of the action and upon any other party with or after service of the summons and complaint upon that party.

(b) Each interrogatory shall be answered separately and fully in writing under oath, unless it is objected to, in which event the reasons for objection shall be stated in lieu of an answer. The answers are to be signed by the person making them, and the objections signed by the attorney making them. The party upon whom the interrogatories have been served shall serve a copy of the answers, and objections if any, within 30 days after the service of the interrogatories, except that a defendant may serve answers or objections within 45 days after service of the summons and complaint upon that defendant. The court may allow a shorter or longer time. The party submitting the interrogatories may move for an order under section 804.12 (1) with respect to any objection to or other failure to answer an interrogatory.

Rule 804.08

Production

Any party may serve on any other party a request (a) to produce and permit the party making the request, or someone acting on the party’s behalf, to inspect and copy, any designated documents (including writings, drawings, graphs, charts, photographs, phono-records, and other data compilations from which information can be obtained, translated, if necessary, by the respondent through detection devices into reasonably usable form), or to inspect and copy, test, or sample any tangible things which constitute or contain matters within the scope of section 804.01 (2) and which are in the possession, custody or control of the party upon whom the request is served; or (b) to permit entry upon designated land or other property in the possession or control of the party upon whom the request is served for the purpose of inspection and measuring, surveying, photographing, testing, or sampling the property or any designated object or operation therein, within the scope of section 804.01 (2). Rule 804.09(1)

Except as provided in section 804.015, the request may, without leave of court, be served upon the plaintiff after commencement of the action and upon any other party with or after service of the summons and complaint upon that party. The request shall specify a reasonable time, place, and manner of making the inspection and performing the related acts. The party upon whom the request is served shall serve a written response within 30 days after the service of the request, except that a defendant may serve a response within 45 days after service of the summons and complaint upon that defendant. The court may allow a shorter or longer time. The response shall state, with respect to each item or category, that inspection and related activities will be permitted as requested, unless the request is objected to, in which event the reasons for objection shall be stated. If objection is made to part of an item or category, the part shall be specified. The party submitting the request may move for an order under section 804.12 (1) with respect to any objection to or other failure to respond to the request or any part thereof, or any failure to permit inspection as requested.

Rule 804.09(2)

Physical and Mental Examinations of Persons

(1) When the mental or physical condition, including the blood groupor the ability to pursue a vocation, of a party is in issue, the court in which the action is pending may order the party to submit to a physical, mental or vocational examination. The order may be made on motion for cause shown and upon notice to all parties and shall specify the time, place, manner, conditions and scope of the examination and the person or persons by whom it is to be made. Rule 804.10(1)

(2) In any action brought to recover damages for personal injuries, the court shall also order the claimant, upon such terms as are just, to give to the other party or any physician named in the order, within a specified time, consent and the right to inspect any X-ray photographtaken in the course of the diagnosis or treatment of the claimant. The court shall also order the claimant to give consent and the right toinspect and copy any hospital, medical or other records and reports that are within the scope of discovery under section 804.01(2).

Rule 804.10(2)

(a) No evidence obtained by an adverse party by a court-ordered examination under subdivision (1) or inspection under subdivision (2) shall beadmitted upon the trial by reference or otherwise unless true copies of all reports prepared pursuant to such examination or inspection and received by such adverse party have been delivered to the other party or attorney not later than 10 days after the reports are received by the adverse party. The party claiming damages shall deliver to the adverse party, in return for copies of reports based on court-ordered examination or inspection, a true copy of all reports of each person who has examined or treated the claimant with respect to the injuries for which damages are claimed. Rule 804.10(3)(a)

(b) This subsection applies to examinations made by agreement of the parties, unless the agreement expressly provides otherwise. This subsection does not preclude discovery of a report of an examining physician or the taking of a deposition of the physician in accordance with any other statute. Rule 804.10(3)(b)

(4) Upon receipt of written authorization and consent signed by a person who has been the subject of medical care or treatment, or in case of the death of such person, signed by the personal representativeor by the beneficiary of an insurance policy on the person’s life, thephysician or other person having custody of any medical or hospitalrecords or reports concerning such care or treatment, shall forthwithpermit the person designated in such authorization to inspect and copysuch records and reports. Any person having custody of such recordsand reports who unreasonably refuses to comply with such authorization shall be liable to the party seeking the records or reports for the reasonable and necessary costs of enforcing the party’s right to discover. Rule 804.10(4)

Requests for Admissions

Except as provided in section 804.015, a party may serve upon any other party a written request for the admission, for purposes of the pending action only, of the truth of any matters within the scope of s. 804.01 (2) set forth in the request that relate to statements or opinions of fact or of the application of law to fact, including the genuineness of any documents described in the request. Copies of documents shall be served with the request unless they have been or are otherwise furnished or made available for inspection and copying. The request may, without leave of court, be served upon the plaintiff after commencement of the action and upon any other party with or after service of the summons and complaint upon that party.

Each matter of which an admission is requested shall be separately set forth. The matter is admitted unless, within 30 days after service of the request, or within such shorter or longer time as the court may allow, the party to whom the request is directed serves upon the party requesting the admission a written answer or objection addressed to the matter, signed by the party or attorney, but, unless the court shortens the time, a defendant shall not be required to serve answers or objections before the expiration of 45 days after service of the summons and complaint upon the defendant. If objection is made, the reasons therefor shall be stated. The answer shall specifically deny the matter or set forth in detail the reasons why the answering party cannot truthfully admit or deny the matter. A denial shall fairly meet the substance of the requested admission, and when good faith requires that a party qualify an answer or deny only a part of the matter of which an admission is requested, the party shall specify so much of it as is true and qualify or deny the remainder. An answering party may not give lack of information or knowledge as a reason for failure to admit or deny unless the party states that he or she had made reasonable inquiry and that the information known or readily obtainable by the party is insufficient to enable the party to admit or deny. A party who considers that a matter of which an admission has been requested presents a genuine issue for trial may not, on that ground alone, object to the request; the party may, subject to s. 804.12 (3) deny the matter or set forth reasons why the party cannot admit or deny it.

(c) The party who has requested the admissions may move to determine the sufficiency of the answers or objections. Unless the court determines that an objection is justified, it shall order that ananswer be served. If the court determines that an answer does not comply with this section, it may order either that the matter is admitted or that an amended answer be served. The court may, in lieu of these orders, determine that final disposition of the request be made at a pretrial conference or at a designated time prior to trial. Section804.12 (1) (c) applies to the award of expenses incurred in relation to the motion. Rule 804.11

Compel Discovery

(1) Except as provided in section 804.015, a party may serve upon any other party a written request for the admission, for purposes of the pending action only, of the truth of any matters within the scope of section 804.01(2) set forth in the request that relate to statements or opinions of fact or of the application of law to fact, including the genuineness of any documents described in the request. Copies of documents shall be served with the request unless they have been or are otherwise furnished or made available for inspection and copying. The request may, without leave of court, be served upon the plaintiff after commencement of the action and upon any other party with or after service of the summons and complaint upon that party.

Each matter of which an admission is requested shall be separately set forth. The matter is admitted unless, within 30 days after service of the request, or within such shorter or longer time as the court may allow, the party to whom the request is directed serves upon the party requesting the admission a written answer or objection addressed to the matter, signed by the party or attorney, but, unless the court shortens the time, a defendant shall not be required to serve answers or objections before the expiration of 45 days after service of the summons and complaint upon the defendant. If objection is made, the reasons therefor shall be stated. The answer shall specifically deny the matter or set forth in detail the reasons why the answering party cannot truthfully admit or deny the matter. A denial shall fairly meet the substance of the requested admission, and when good faith requires that a party qualify an answer or deny only a part of the matter of which an admission is requested, the party shall specify so much of it as is true and qualify or deny the remainder. An answering party may not give lack of information or knowledge as a reason for failure to admit or deny unless the party states that he or she had made reasonable inquiry and that the information known or readily obtainable by the party is insufficient to enable the party to admit or deny. A party who considers that a matter of which an admission has been requested presents a genuine issue for trial may not, on that ground alone, object to the request; the party may, subject to section 804.12 (3) deny the matter or set forth reasons why the party cannot admit or deny it.

The party who has requested the admissions may move to determine the sufficiency of the answers or objections. Unless the court determines that an objection is justified, it shall order that an answer be served. If the court determines that an answer does not comply with this section, it may order either that the matter is admitted or that an amended answer be served. The court may, in lieu of these orders, determine that final disposition of the request be made at a pretrial conference or at a designated time prior to trial. Section 804.12 (1) (c) applies to the award of expenses incurred in relation to the motion. Rule 804.12

Domestic Actions Discovery Notes

If you require extra time to respond to discovery, you should ask the other side for an extension in writing. It may also be necessary to enter an order granting the extension to protect your rights.

Discovery questions are limited in number so select the most important questions to ask the other side. Don’t waste your requests writing questions that you already know the answer to.


Inside Wisconsin Discovery Law