Complaint, Answer & Interrogatories
A civil suit starts with the Plaintiff filing a Complaint against the Defendant in the Circuit Court, normally where the injury occurred. The Plaintiff is the person bringing the civil suit and the Defendant is the person being sued.
The Complaint in this case was brought in Harrison County, West Virginia, which is the proper jurisdiction and venue given that the injury took place in Harrison County, West Virginia.
A review of the Complaint will show that an employer failed to provide the required safety equipment for the workers who were engaged in roofing work during a renovation project of a home located in Bridgeport, West Virginia, and were in violation of the following:
- OSHA (Occupation Safety and Health Administration) requirements.
- Employer failed to properly design, plan and supervise the job site.
- Employer did not provide harnesses, lanyard or work platforms.
- Employer failed to provide a reasonable safe workplace.
- Employer failed to provide Workers’ Compensation coverage.
This Complaint provides a lot of detail concerning this fall by the worker from the roof that resulted in these serious injuries. In West Virginia, a Complaint is only required to provide notice pleading, meaning not every fact needs to be alleged, only sufficient facts for the Defendant to know the nature of the suit.Answer
Once an official summons is issued to a Defendant, the Defendant, through his attorney, will then file an answer to this lawsuit. The person or company who is sued does not normally select their attorney even though they are, in theory, the attorney for the parties sued. The insurance company will hire a defense attorney who will then represent the party being sued.
In the Answer to a Civil Complaint, the party must admit or deny each and every allegation set out in every paragraph of a Complaint. Civil defense law firms will routinely use form answers where they often deny allegations contained in a Complaint and list general affirmative defenses to the claim.
Remember that the Plaintiff is required to prove their case by preponderance of the evidence and that they have the burden in any civil lawsuit. This means they have the duty to prove all allegations and facts concerning both liability and/or damages.
Liability is the part of a case wherein the plaintiff must prove that the Defendant is responsible for the harm suffered by the injured party. Damages are the part of the case where the Plaintiff must prove that the injuries were caused by this incident and what type of injuries they incurred. The Defendant bears no burden and if the Plaintiff fails to prove his/her case, they will not prevail.Interrogatories
Pursuant to West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 33, the parties in a Civil Suit are permitted to submit to the opposing party written interrogatories through their attorney, not to exceed (40) forty in number including sub-parts, which are to be answered by the other parties within (30) thirty days.
The Defendant in this case has sent 18 questions with various sub parts, which are designed to solicit answers from the Plaintiff in our Roof Fall case concerning:
- Background information about the injured worker (Plaintiff).
- Medical treatment received, along with copies of bills and records.
- Past medical treatment received.
- Expert witnesses the Plaintiff will call during trial.
These questions will be answered by the Plaintiff with the aid of the attorney. Be cautious when answering these questions because they will be later used in depositions of the parties or in trial. If the lawyer thinks that the questions are inappropriate, he may object as long as the objection is stated with specificity.
The Plaintiff, in his answers, has provided answers to each and every question asked and provided a detailed list of all health care providers and the cost of treatment received.
In a Civil Suit, the Plaintiff should not be afraid of answering questions in detail if needed. The Plaintiff needs to provide the sufficient information needed by the Defendant’s insurance company so they can adequately evaluate the case. Showing the insurance company early on that this is a valid claim that has strong liability and strong damages can go a long way in establishing the Plaintiff’s claim.
This supplemental response updated the medical treatment and provided detailed disclosure of expert witnesses who will testify at the trial of the case. There are two types of experts testifying in this case. First, liability experts who will testify to the wrongful conduct of the Defendant and second, damages experts who will testify to the injuries and losses suffered by the Plaintiff due to this injury.
The Plaintiff and his/her attorney have a duty to supplement discovery and questions asked in interrogatories throughout the duration of the suit. Here the lawyer has provided updated answers to the questions that were asked in discovery. He has done this twice; therefore, these are referred to as Plaintiff’s Second Supplemental Responses.