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Discovery V: Depositions–What is a deposition on written questions, or DWQ?

18 November 2011

Ah, now we get into the really fun part of discovery: depositions. I could either make this one really long post, or break it up into bite-sized palatable chunks. And we all appreciate concise reads on the Internet do we not? So, we’ll start with Deposition on Written Questions, or DWQ as we call it in the industry. This is not the quasi-dramatic attorney/deponent facedown, we’re not to that part yet (but we’ll get there, don’t worry.)

If you are just tuning in, consider reading the blog posts from the beginning of my series on discovery here. And as usual, I am using the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure as an example because I am most familiar with them, but most states–including mine, Texas–model their rules after the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (And some also have downright peculiar dichotomies–more on this later.) So, while any person in any state may use this as a GUIDE (ONLY), be sure to Google your own state’s procedural rules, or the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure if it’s a federal case.

This is the discovery device used most frequently to get your hands on medical and/or billing records, such as would be necessary in a personal injury or medical malpractice case. DWQ are useful typically when the deponent has limited relevant information. A custodian of business records, for example, would be such a person. DWQ are similar to interrogatories in that they are questions drafted in advance and propounded on the witness, but unlike interrogatories, they may be served on non-parties [to the lawsuit] (please see what is a discovery subpoena?).

In Texas, the only persons qualified to take DWQ are: a district court clerk, a county court judge or clerk, a court reporter, or a notary public. Most often, law firms outsource this type of procedure to a business specializing in such services, such as Blue Ribbon Legal (in Texas), or some other court reporting service.

Just like in the case of an oral deposition (the type with which most of you are probably familiar), an official Notice must be drafted and served on all parties (or their attorneys) stating:

  • Name of deponent (could be simply “Custodian of BusinessRecords” if name is not known);
  • A “reasonable” place and date for the DWQ to take place;
  • Notice must be served on all parties at least twenty (20) days prior to the DWQ date–when the Notice requests documents to be produced, thirty (30) days must be given, and the documents to be produced must be specified (known as a subpoena duces tecum); and
  • Notice must be signed by the attorney or yourself if you are pro se.

The questions to be asked must be attached to the Notice and provided to the deposition officer. Usually this means a list of business documents or medical records “kept in the ordinary course of business” will be requested of the deponent, and by answering the written questions, the deponent is averring that the provided documents are indeed the ones requested.

This is the most common way to procure documents needed to shore up a case. 

This is also a rather simplistic explanation intended for informational purposes only. Please remember that I am not an attorney, and if you need legal advice, it’s suggested you consult with an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.

For more information regarding a Deposition on Written Questions, including how to object to them, how to assert privilege, and how to ensure they will be admissible to trial should a trial eventually occur, please go here. Pay particular attention to the different ways documents can and must be made admissible to court (should the case ever go to trial), which is called authenticating a document.

Next I’ll cover oral depositions.

**Always remember to consult your own state’s rules, and any local rules that may apply! For an overview of civil procedure, go here.

For additional helpful background information, please see “A primer on all the different types of courts.”

Further fun reading: 
 
You can find particular judges’ and courts’ web-sites in Harris County (Houston) here.
 
Or just Google for your state, county, or particular judge’s website. You might be surprised how much information you can find there.  
 

If interested, please visit my entire series on discovery:

What is discovery, and what are interrogatories?

What is a discovery subpoena?

Discovery II: What are requests for disclosure?

Discovery III: What are requests for admissions?

Discovery IV: What are requests for production?

 
Sami K. Hartsfield, ACP is a paralegal and freelance writer based in Houston, Texas. She is a NALA Advanced Certified Paralegal, and has earned six specialty certifications since 2007: Discovery; Trial Practice; Contracts Management; Social Security Disability Law; and Entity & Individual Medical Liability. She has worked as a law firm Webmaster, law firm social media marketer, and ghostwriter for personal injury law firms. She holds a degree in paralegal studies with a 4.0 GPA and a bachelor of science degree in political science, graduating summa cum laude. Sami interned with Texas’ 14th Court of Appeals under Chief Justice Adele Hedges, and completed the University of Houston Law Center’s Summer 2008 Prelaw Institute with a 4.0. You can find her on Facebook and e-mail her with questions, comments, or ideas at LegallyBlog@yahoo.com

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Copyright 2011 Sami K. Hartsfield – All Rights Reserved
One Comment
  1. Excellent post, thank you for sharing with us!

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