Respond to a request for discovery in a court case

If you’ve received a document titled:

  • Form Interrogatories, Special Interrogatories, or Specially Prepared Interrogatories

  • Requests for Admission

  • Request for Production or Demand for Inspection

this means the other side in your case wants to get information from you. This is a legal process called conducting discovery.

The other side is requesting information so they can prepare for trial

The other side in your lawsuit is requesting information from you, so they can:

  • Find out what you plan to say about an issue in the case

  • Find facts or witnesses to support their side

  • Get information or documents that are only available to you and that could serve as evidence for their side of the case

The other side may also use this information to try to reach an agreement and avoid having a trial at all.

You typically have 30 days to respond to the request

Once you’ve received (been served) the request, you have 30 or 35 days to respond, depending on how you received the request. In eviction cases (also known as unlawful detainer cases) you have 5 or 10 days to respond. 

During the time you have to respond to discovery requests, you can still use mediation or work to negotiate a settlement with the other side.

How you respond will depend upon what type of request you’ve received.

You have 30 days if you were handed the request
If you were personally served with the request, meaning someone delivered them directly to you, you will have 30 days.

You have at least 35 days from the day of mailing if you were mailed the request
If you received the request in the mail, and both you and the sender are in California, you have 35 days from the day of mailing to respond.
If you or the sender is outside of California, but in the United States, you will have 40 days from the day of mailing to respond.
If you or the sender is outside the United States, you will have 50 days from the day of mailing.

In an eviction case, these times are shortened to 5 or 10 days
In an eviction case, you have only 5 days if personally served, or 10 days from the date of mailing if they are mailed to you from within California.
If mailed from outside of California, but in the United States you have 15 days from the date of mailing.
If mailed from outside the United States, you will have 25 days from the date of mailing.

If you need more time, ask the other side. If they agree, send them a letter confirming the agreement to a new date.

You must respond to the request and swear under oath that your response is true.

Then you’ll deliver your response to the other side's attorney (or to the other side, if they don't have an attorney). You do this by serving the response, a specific court procedure where you have another person deliver or mail the response.

You may need help to respond. How you respond can impact the outcome of your case. Questions can be worded in a way that may be difficult to understand or there may be a legal reason you don’t have to respond. You can hire an attorney to assist you with how to respond or to help you understand the questions. 

If you need information from the other side

You can make your own discovery requests to get information from the other side. This can be a very useful way to get information to make your case in court. Making your own discovery requests can allow you to:

  • Find out what the other side plans to say about your case

  • Find facts or witnesses to support your side

  • Get information or documents that are only available to the other side and that could serve as evidence for your side of the case

Learn how to conduct your own discovery requests

Responding to discovery requests

What type of request did you receive?

The papers you received should include one of the following descriptions or titles. Select the one that matches the request you received to get step-by-step instructions for how to respond.

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