Discovery by interrogatories is a procedure whereby a party or its representative is required to answer in writing, and usually on oath, specific questions prior to the trial, which answers may be tendered against the answering party as evidence in the trial. Like Discovery, of which interrogatories form part, the procedure originated in the High Court of Chancery and only became available in New South Wales at Common Law under the Supreme Court Act 1970 and in the District Court under the District Court Act 1973. It was not previously available in the Local Court.
Interrogatories are dealt with in UCPR Pt 22 which applies to the Supreme and District Courts and to the General Division of the Local Court. Interrogatories are not available in the Small Claims Division of the Local Court or in the Dust Diseases Tribunal: r 1.5 and Sch 1.
Unlike the previous procedure in the Supreme and District Courts, a party can no longer require another party to answer interrogatories by service of a notice setting out the interrogatories, but must obtain an order from the court requiring answers to specified interrogatories: r 22.1.
The application for an order for interrogatories may be made at any time and must be accompanied by a copy of the proposed interrogatories: r 22.2.
Such an order is not to be made unless the court is satisfied that the order is necessary at the time it is made: r 22.4. In proceedings on a claim for damages arising out of the death of or bodily injury to any person or a claim for contribution in relation to damages so arising, such an order is not to be made unless the court is satisfied that special reasons exist to justify the making of the order: r 22.3. As to what constitutes “special reasons” in this context, see “Discovery” at [2-2200].
[2-3220] Order necessary
“Necessary” in this context has been held to mean “necessary for the disposing fairly of the case or matter”, “necessary in the interests of a fair trial”: Boyle v Downs  1 NSWLR 192 at 204–5; Chong v Nguyen  NSWSC 588.
The proposed interrogatories must therefore relate to the issues in the trial (Seidler v John Fairfax and Sons Ltd  2 NSWLR 390), and it is relevant to consider whether the proposed interrogatories relate to matters which can be proved by other evidence, but interrogatories have been held to be “necessary and allowed” where they related to matters, proof of which would be difficult or expensive: Lang v Australian Coastal Shipping Commission  2 NSWLR 70.
In Venacom Pty Ltd v Morgan Brooks Pty Ltd  NSWSC 46, Campbell J held that, as the plaintiff’s evidence-in-chief had not been filed at the time of the application, it was not shown that the order for interrogatories was “necessary” at that time.
The following classes of interrogatories will not be allowed:
those which seek admissions on matters of law
those which seek admissions depending on the application of a legal standard
those which assume that the same answer would be given irrespective of the factual context in which the question arises, or
those which relate only to the credibility of a witness.
See generally Coal Cliff Collieries Pty Ltd v C E Heath Insurance Broking (Aust) Pty Ltd (1986) 5 NSWLR 703; Hansen v Border Morning Mail Pty Ltd (1987) 9 NSWLR 44 at 57–58.
[2-3230] Objections to specific interrogatories
Rule 22.2 provides that the only grounds on which a party may object to answering an interrogatory are:
that the interrogatory does not relate to any matter in issue between that party and the party seeking the order,
that the interrogatory is oppressive or vexatious,
that the answer to the interrogatory could disclose privileged information.
It would appear that there is little difference, if any, between (a) and (b) and the requirement under r 22.1 that the interrogatory be “necessary” at the relevant time.
As to (c) privileged information, see Discovery, above, at [2-2200] and CPA s 87.
[2-3240] The order
The order must specify the interrogatories to be answered (r 22.1(1)) may require the answers to be given within a specified time, may require the answers, or any of them, to be verified by affidavit and, in cases where r 35.3 authorises someone other than the party to make the affidavit (eg in cases of infants, corporations, etc), may specify the person to make the affidavit or class from whom such person is to be chosen: r 35.5.
[2-3250] The answers
Rule 22.3 requires that a statement of answers to interrogatories must deal with each interrogatory specifically, setting out each interrogatory and the answer to it, answering the substance of each interrogatory without evasion, and, in so far as required by the order, must be verified by affidavit.
Unless the terms of the interrogatory indicate otherwise, the party interrogated must make enquiries of their servants and agents, including former servants and agents, and answer in accordance with the information supplied by them as well as their own knowledge, information and belief: see Derham v AMEV Life Insurance Co Ltd (1978) 20 ACTR 23, noted (1978) 52 ALJ 464, and see generally Ritchie’s at [22.3.20]–[22.3.40] and Thomson Reuters at [22.2.80].
As to insufficient answers or default in answering, see rr 22.4 and 22.5 respectively.
[2-3260] Answers as evidence
Answers to interrogatories do not become evidence in the proceedings unless tendered at the trial. A party may tender one or more answers or part of an answer without tendering the other answers or the whole of the answer. If the court, however, considers that any other answer or any part of an answer is so connected with the matter tendered that such matter should not be used without the other answer or part, it may reject the tender unless that other answer or part is also tendered: r 22.6.
CPA 2005 s 87
UCPR 2005 Sch 1, rr 1.5, 22.1–22.6, 35.3, 35.5