When a lawsuit is filed, the parties need to get more information about the case before discussing settlement or taking it to trial. This information-gathering process is called discovery. The facts and potential evidence gained through discovery helps the parties clarify their strategies and streamline the litigation. One way the parties to a lawsuit may conduct discovery is through depositions. We’re going to cover exactly what a deposition is and what to expect if you’re involved in one.
So what exactly is a deposition? A deposition is a formal statement given by a witness under oath outside of court before a trial. It involves a witness answering questions about the case as a way to determine what he/she knows about the case and to record the witness’s testimony. This is also a way for the parties to learn all the facts of the case (i.e. what happened and who was involved?) so that, if the case is taken to trial, no party is surprised by what the witnesses say on the stand. It also helps point out the weak points in the arguments for both sides.
The Deposition Process
Depositions often take place in the informal setting of an attorney’s office, and not a courtroom. The process involves the attorney’s asking the deponent—or witness—a series of questions about the facts and events surrounding the case. The entire deposition is recorded word-for-word by a court reporter who prepares a verbatim transcript. If a deponent is ill and cannot attend the trial or is out of town on the trial date, the deposition may be recorded for use at trial. In some cases, the testimony recorded in a deposition may be admissible in court.
Depositions can vary in length depending on how involved the witness is in the case. All parties may attend the deposition, including the claimant, defendant, and their attorneys. An attorney for the deponent may also attend, but their legal capacity is somewhat limited. For example, the witness’s attorney may object to a question posed by an opposing attorney, especially since questions may often be broader than they would be on trial, but the deponent is typically obligated to answer all proper questions.
Remember, anything said in a deposition is stated under oath. False statements made under oath may have civil and criminal penalties.
If you’re involved in a deposition or have any questions, contact the attorneys at Jones Obenchain.