Position Paper for Self Propounding Standard Interrogatories

The Compulsory Arbitration process successfully resolves thousands of claims that are filed annually in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. A high percentage of these claims involve issues regarding both motor vehicle and fall down liability accidents. With an efficient use of resources, these claims should be resolved at considerably less cost to the parties and the Court, in terms of both time and expense, than otherwise would be expended should these cases be filed as jury or bench trials. In theory, the Compulsory Arbitration process should provide a viable alternative dispute resolution procedure which allows our judicial system to resolve complaints both quickly and effectively.

Too often, however, the Court must entertain repetitive objections to routine, customary and common interrogatories propounded in arbitration cases, thereby inefficiently utilizing the resources of both the parties and the Court, and negating the benefits of the Compulsory Arbitration system. In order to address this issue, the Compulsory Arbitration Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association proposes that Self Propounding Standard Interrogatories be implemented in Compulsory Arbitration Cases in Philadelphia County in those claims involving motor vehicle and fall down litigation, only. It is the intention of the Committee that this proposed discovery change will alleviate many of the discovery disputes now being litigated in Philadelphia County Courts, and will further serve to reduce the time and expense necessary to resolve these arbitration matters. Furthermore, the standardization of such discovery requests will allow representatives of each party to know, in advance, the issues that will be raised pursuant to such requests. Consequently, the parties can gather the necessary information to successfully complete discovery at an earlier stage of the litigation, thereby promoting earlier resolution of these claims.

A team of both defense and plaintiffs� attorneys each developed their respective interrogatories with the objective of being able to obtain all relevant information without limitation in these types of cases. In addition to being embraced by members of both the defense and plaintiffs� bar, the concept of Self Propounding Standard Interrogatories has been endorsed by two Common Pleas Court Judges who were members of the Compulsory Arbitration Committee at the time that this proposal was developed.

In light of extensive endeavor of both the defense and plaintiffs� bars to make the Self Propounding Standard Interrogatories comprehensive in the majority of arbitration claims involving motor vehicle and fall down liability issues, the members of the Compulsory Arbitration Committee propose that the following rules should apply in these type of actions:

1. Within thirty (30) days the filing of an answer to a Civil Action Complaint, the plaintiff and the defendant shall answer discovery requests as heretofore identified in this rule which discovery requests shall be deemed propounded and served upon the opposing side at the time of the filing of the answer to the Civil Action Complaint.

2. Unless otherwise agreed by the parties or upon application to the court for good cause shown, there shall be no further written discovery requests permitted, and in the absence of such an agreement or Court order, no party shall be required to answer any additional written discovery requests. The phrase "good cause shown" is to be liberally construed to allow the parties to conduct such discovery as may be reasonably necessary for that party to prepare its case for trial.

3. Nothing in this rule shall preclude a party from propounding additional written discovery requests for matters that are not exclusively automobile liability or fall down liability.

4. In the event of an appeal from arbitration, notwithstanding the above rules, each party shall have the right to propound an additional ten (10) interrogatories, without sub-parts, of that party�s own choosing.

5. In the event that a party wishes to invoke the Dead Man�s Rule, that party shall notify the opposing party, in writing, of its intention to use said Rule, within twenty (20) days of the time that the interrogatories are deemed to be propounded. In such a case, the Self Propounding Standard Interrogatories will not be deemed to be served upon the opposing party and that party shall have no obligation to respond to same.

Finally, it is contemplated that this proposal, if implemented, would serve as a pilot program to enable the Court system to help determine its usefulness in other types of cases, including major cases.