Outline of a Lawsuit – Part 15 – What is a “Deposition”?

Once the PC Order has been executed, the parties must then arrange to hold the depositions.  It is not uncommon to hold the deposition separately from the deposition of the defendant.  In order to expedite the PC Order and to move the client’s case along, it is best to schedule the plaintiff first and to take other depositions later.

After a date is agreed upon, a  court reporter is contacted.  Most depositions take place in the office of a local court reporter (in the county where the lawsuit is pending).  If the attorneys cannot agree to a location, the courthouse is selected as the location to do so.  (It is preferable to take a deposition in a private office for a multitude of reasons, mainly for comfort and convenience).

The attorney for a witness needs to take time to speak to his or her client.  They need to review all of the facts about the question of fault (“liability”) and the loss suffered by the injured person (“damages).  A review of a police report can help refresh a witness’ memory as to the facts concerning an automobile accident.  Photos of the scene and an injury are also helpful.  A careful review of the medical treatment associated with the client’s injuries will help the witness with their testimony.

A witness should testify with a “yes” or “no” answer if possible.  All other responses should be as short and direct as possible.  All responses must be made verbally (because a court reporter cannot take down non-verbal responses).

The attorneys agree to the “usual stipulations” which means that the witness must complete their answer, that attorneys cannot object to the substance of a question (only as to the “form” of a question) and all disputes regarding the questions may be resolved by a judge.

Most depositions take place in an orderly fashion.  Occasionally, one attorney (or another) may interrupt or disrupt a deposition.  At such point, it is always advised to contact the judge assigned to the case and to prepare to make an argument on behalf of your client.

If there are multiple litigants, each attorney for each litigant has the right to question the witness about each and every issue.  Generally, experienced attorneys do not repeat the same questions. Occasionally, they may repeat  question only for the purpose of clarifying a witness’ testimony.

In the next blog, I will discuss the post-deposition procedure and the purpose of a deposition transcript at trial.

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