Superior Court Adopts KCBA’s Proposed Pattern Interrogatories for Automobile Tort Cases
 
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Download the Approved Pattern Interrogatories

Defendant to Plaintiff:
     Word (DOC) format (83k) | Adobe PDF format (38k)

Plaintiff to Defendant:
     Word (DOC) format (74k) | Adobe PDF format (32k)

Report of KCBA Pattern Interrogatory Subcommittee:
     Adobe PDF format (1.9mb)

The pattern interrogatories have been approved for use immediately.

A Word From Former KCBA President John Ruhl on the Interrogatories:

As this new year begins, I am pleased to announce that the King County Superior Court has approved pattern interrogatories for use in automobile tort cases. This is the first set of pattern discovery adopted pursuant to KCLR 33(a). The pattern interrogatories were developed carefully by the KCBA Judiciary and the Courts Committee during 2005 and 2006.

I am confident that the pattern interrogatories will lower the cost of discovery in motor vehicle tort cases, which make up approximately 66% of the Court’s tort cases that were filed in 2004 and 2005.

King County Superior Court Presiding Judge Michael Trickey applauded everyone who has been involved in crafting the pattern interrogatories. "This is an excellent example of collaboration between the plaintiffs’ bar, the defense bar and the bench," he said. "The real winners are the citizens of King County."

The standardized questions allow plaintiffs’ and defendants’ counsel to propound written discovery requests more quickly and easily. They give both sides’ counsel less reason to engage in costly discovery disputes that otherwise might eat up an inordinate portion of pretrial expense and waste judicial resources.

Sixteen-Month Collaborative Effort

Plaintiff and Defense Practitioners
The pattern interrogatory project has been a major task of the KCBA Judiciary and the Courts Committee during the past 16 months. In the fall of 2005, committee chair Brian Esler appointed two separate drafting groups comprising practitioners who specialize in litigating automobile tort matters: a plaintiffs’ group consisting of Morris Rosenberg (chair), Alan Funk, Robert Green, Patrick LePley, Evy McElmeel, Katherine Mason, and Marc Silverman; and a defendants’ group consisting of Stacy Plotkin-Wolff (chair), Anamaria Gil, Caryn Jorgensen, Randy McCaskill, Suzanne Parisien, Tom Richards, and Jim Van Damme.

Between October 2005 and March 2006, both drafting groups made separate drafts of pattern interrogatories – a "plaintiff-to-defendant" set and a "defendant-to-plaintiff" set. They used as their models various sets of pattern interrogatories used in other states, including California, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Florida.

In the spring of 2006, each group reviewed the other group’s draft. They then combined their efforts to reach a consensus. The core of the final drafting group consisted of Brian Esler, Anamaria Gil, Robert Green, Caryn Jorgensen, Tom Richards, Morris Rosenberg and Marc Silverman.

"Although we had many heated discussions, there was an excellent sprit of professionalism, cooperation and give and take between the plaintiff and the defense practitioners," Esler said.

The committee ultimately developed two sets of proposed questions: a "plaintiff-to-defendant" set consisting of 28 questions; and a "defendant-to-plaintiff" set consisting of 36 questions.

Solicitation of Comments and Further Changes
In the spring of 2006, the committee posted both sets of the draft pattern interrogatories on the KCBA website for review and comment. A notice soliciting comments was published in the June 2006 edition of the King County Bar Bulletin. A full article about the proposal was published in the July 2006 Bar Bulletin.

The committee also sent the drafts for comments to the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association, the Washington Defense Trial Lawyers, the WSBA Litigation Section, the WSBA Court Rules and Procedures Committee, the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Northwest Justice Project, and the Northwest Women’s Law Center.

Based on the comments received, the committee made additional changes and submitted its final drafts to the KCBA Board of Trustees. On August 16, 2006, the Trustees unanimously approved the drafts and forwarded the proposed pattern interrogatories to the King County Superior Court Local Rules Committee.

I hope that the admirable spirit of cooperation shown by the lawyers on opposite sides in preparing the pattern discovery requests for auto tort cases will carry over to practitioners in other discrete practice areas.

Pattern Interrogatories Part of Joint Discovery Reform Effort by Bench and Bar
The pattern interrogatories project is the second part of a joint bench-bar discovery reform effort taken pursuant to an earlier set of recommendations made by the KCBA Judiciary and the Courts Committee in 2004. The committee, which included several Superior Court Judges, stated in its June 2004 report that:

[d]iscovery has placed enormous burdens on the judicial system, dramatically increased the cost of trial preparation, reduced the opportunity to actually have a case decided by a judge or jury, and forced settlement of issues driven largely by the costs of going forward and not the merits. In short, discovery has not helped secure the "just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action."

The committee recommended a package of civil discovery reform proposals that included presumptive caps on the number of interrogatories and requests for admission; limits on the number and length of depositions; pattern interrogatories for specific areas of practice; and a pilot project for early mediation in some types of cases.

In September 2005, the King County Superior Court adopted KCLR 26(d), which limits the number of interrogatories, requests for admissions, and depositions in civil cases.

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