Kearsarge Comput. v. Acme Staple Co.

116 N.H. 705, 366 A.2d 467 (1976)

 

RULE:

Ordinarily, answers to interrogatories do not limit the answering party's proof at trial. However, the purpose of interrogatories is to narrow the issues of the litigation and prevent unfair surprise by making evidence available in time for both parties to evaluate it and adequately prepare for trial. In order to achieve these goals, a party must fully disclose all requested information which he has at the time of the demand. Although the duty to investigate is not unlimited, a party must find out what is in his own records and what is within the knowledge of his agents and employees concerning the occurrence or transaction.

FACTS:

The company terminated the parties' agreement because the data processor's performance was unsatisfactory, then filed suit. The data processor served pretrial discovery interrogatories to the company asking the alleged breaches committed by the data processor. In response, the company cited several incidents, 11 in total. During trial, the company was not permitted to introduce evidence of breach other than to those cited in response to the interrogatories. The trial court entered a judgment in favor of the data processor.

ISSUE:

Was the company properly precluded by the trial court from presenting evidence of any breach other than those indicted to its response to interrogatories?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

On appeal, the court reduced the damages by the amount spent by the company to correct errors. No error occurred when the company was not permitted to introduce evidence of breaches of the contract that were not specified in its answer to the data processor's interrogatory. In that regard, the court noted that the company never objected to the interrogatory or sought an extension of the time period specified for its response. Because N.H. Super. Ct. R. 33 implicitly required a party to supplement its responses, the company was obligated to inform the data processor of other breaches as they became known. Furthermore, the data processor was entitled to the full balance of the contract price because its performance did not require a substantial outlay of cash or materials on its part. Moreover, the business it secured after the agreement's termination did not serve to mitigate its damages because the law presumed that readily expandable businesses could accept a virtually unlimited amount of business.

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