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Kelly v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co

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    Bloomberg Law

    Citation. 22 Ill.188 N.E.2d 445 (Ohio Com. Pl. 1963)

    Brief Fact Summary. The Plaintiff, Kelly (Plaintiff), sued the Defendant, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company (Defendant), to recover damages to her motor vehicle under a comprehensive policy during the latter part of April 1961. Defendant denied that such coverage existed at that time in a general denial within its answer and moved to have Plaintiff give more complete answers to Defendant’s interrogatories.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Interrogatories whether filed with a pleading or separately are proper when: (1) relevant to an issue in the case (not just relevant to an issue in the pleading); (2) privileged information is not sought and (3) the information sought would be admissible evidence in the action. This rule is limited by the further rule that interrogatories may not: (1) seek discovery of the manner in which the opponent’s case is to be established, nor (2) inquire as to what his witnesses will testify.


    Facts. Plaintiff contended that a comprehensive insurance policy underwritten by the Defendant existed in late April 1966 when someone had damaged Plaintiff’s car by placing sugar in the fuel tank. Defendant generally denied that such a policy was in place at the time of the damage and attached to its answer 42 interrogatories for Plaintiff to answer. Plaintiff answered the interrogatories and Defendant moved to have Plaintiff answer them more completely.

    Issue. Whether the Plaintiff, within the scope of discovery, has to reveal to the Defendant in advance of trial, evidence which the Plaintiff hopes to establish in support of his own case.

    Held. No. The court stated the following rules of law and decision.
    Interrogatories, whether filed with a pleading or separately are proper when: (1) relevant to an issue in the case (not just relevant to an issue in the pleading); (2) privileged information is not sought and (3) the information sought would be admissible evidence in the action.
    This rule is limited by the further rule that interrogatories may not: (1) seek discovery of the manner in which the opponent’s case is to be established, nor (2) inquire as to what his witnesses will testify.
    The court held that Plaintiff had to answer whether Plaintiff was a sole proprietor, partner or corporation with regard to the trucking business at the time of the damage – an interrogatory which had direct bearing on the question of the truck’s ownership and policy coverage. All the other interrogatories answered by Plaintiff which Defendant requested to be further answered were deemed complete.

    Discussion. The court sided with the more liberal view regarding the scope of discovery. As long as interrogatories go directly to the core issues in the case, courts are willing to allow a more lenient discovery process. Though the use of discovery to inquire as to how the other side will present its case is barred.

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