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Discovery & Duty to Disclose in a Civil Action

Duty to Disclose Information

In general, under Rule 26 of the MN Rules of Civil Procedure, parties in a civil action are required to disclose information to each other without being asked through the formal "discovery" process. This website only describes the requirements of the rule in general, so you should read the rules for more specific details, including deadlines, exceptions, and penalties for failure to comply with the rules.

Unless otherwise ordered by the court, disclosures are not filed with the court, but they must be in writing, signed by the party, and served on the other party. The courts do not publish sample disclosure or discovery forms. You should talk with a lawyer, or you may be able to find sample forms or additional information on civil procedures at a law library.

Failure to disclose:  Be aware that failure to disclose information as required in the rules can result in negative consequences. Rule 37 of the MN Rules of Civil Procedure explains that if you fail to provide information or identify a witness, you may not be allowed to use that evidence in your trial or hearing. The court could also order other penalties against you.

Types of Disclosure


Initial Disclosures

Within 60 days from when the defendant's Answer is due, all parties are required to give (disclose) to the other parties:

1.  The names of people who may have information that supports your claims or defenses. You must identify the name of the person and the subject matter or type of information they may have. You must also disclose their contact information (address and telephone number) if you have it.

2.  A copy of a description of all documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things that you have in your possession and want to use to support your claims or defenses.

3.  You must create a list with each category and the amount of damages you are claiming. You must make the supporting documentation available to the other parties; and

4.  You must make an insurance agreement available to the other parties if it could be used to satisfy all or part of a judgment.

Expert Disclosures

If there is a witness who you have hired to provide expert testimony in the case, you must disclose this, along with a written report from the expert witness. Read Rule 26.01(b) of MN Rules of Civil Procedure for the details that must be contained in the report and the deadlines.

Pretrial Disclosures

At least 30 days before the trial, all parties must disclose:

1.  Your witness list, including which witnesses will have their testimony presented by deposition; and

2.  Your exhibit list, identifying each document.

Discovery of Information

"Discovery" is the process each party can use to learn what evidence the other side has about the dispute. The discovery process takes time, and it can be expensive, intrusive and frustrating, especially if you do not have the help of an attorney. Discovery may not be needed in very simple cases, but both parties have a right to use discovery to get relevant information that the other party has about the facts of the case.

The basic types of discovery include depositions (oral or written testimony), written interrogatories, production of documents or things, and requests for admission. See MN Rules of Civ. Pro. 26.01 for a complete list of discovery methods.

NOTE: The courts do NOT publish sample disclosure or discovery forms. You should talk with a lawyer, or you may be able to find sample forms or additional information on civil procedure at a law library.

Types of Discovery



Deposition Upon Oral Examination: The person being deposed is questioned under oath or affirmation (in other words, the person is testifying). An officer (person who is able to administer oaths and take testimony) records the deposition either by sound, sound-and-visual, or stenographic means. See Rule 30 of MN Rules of Civil Procedure for more information about required notices and procedures for depositions. A deposition is arranged by the parties or their lawyers, and is not done in front of a judge. In certain circumstances, the testimony given at the deposition can be used as evidence at a later court trial, but only as allowed by Rule 32 of MN Rules of Civil Procedure.

Deposition Upon Written Questions: The party taking the deposition sends written questions to the person being deposed. An officer records the person's responses to the written questions. See Rule 31 of MN Rules of Civil Procedure.

The party that deposes a witness has to pay the costs of a deposition (Example: The officer who records the deposition usually charges a fee for his service.)


Interrogatories are written questions about things that are relevant, or important, to the case. A party can serve another party with up to 50 interrogatories. Written answers to the questions must generally be sent back within 30 days. For more information, see Rule 26.02 and Rule 33 of MN Rules of Civil Procedure.

Request for Production of Documents or Things

Any party can serve another party with a "Request for the Production of Documents or Things." In this type of discovery, the requesting party asks the other party to produce a particular document or item, and to allow the requesting party to inspect and copy, test, or sample the document, item or electronically stored information. See Rule 34 of MN Rules of Civil Procedure.

Requests for Admission

A party uses this type of discovery to ask another party to admit or deny certain facts pertaining to the case. Statements that are not denied or objected to within 30 days (some exceptions apply) are considered to be admitted. See Rule 36 of MN Rules of Civil Procedure.

Discovery generally does not involve going to court. However, if there are problems, a party can file a Motion with the court and ask the judge to compel (order) a party to respond to a discovery request or impose consequences (fines, fees or other sanctions) if a request is unreasonable, a party is not responding appropriately or on time, or for other reasons allowed by the Rules. The Rules on preparing a Motion, serving it on the other party and filing it with the court are online at Rules 30 - 36 of MN Rules of Civil Procedure.


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