Anatomy of a Case

Discovery Tools

Deposition

A Deposition is a discovery tool whereby the parties and key witnesses are summoned to the office of an attorney or other location, and under penalty of perjury, asked a number of questions related [and sometimes unrelated] to the lawsuit. These depositions can be excruciatingly difficult for the party being asked the questions. Not only that, they can take a day out of work or even several days in larger cases. A person being deposed should spend a considerable amount of time [again at their own cost] with their attorney getting prepared for this process.

Depositions provide a great opportunity for attorneys to learn information related to the case, and often, information not related to the case. Because the answers are under penalty of perjury, they are required to be truthful, cannot be "made-up" and can be used later to prevent a person from contradicting themselves. In this regard, if a lawyer asks a party at a deposition if "A was speeding" and the party says "Yes, he was going 100 mph," at trial that party will not be able to say that "A was not speeding and he was traveling the speed limit," and keep any credibility. A deposition is thus a great way to know what the party will say at trial and to enable the parties to seek additional information after the deposition to support or destroy any such assertions. For example, after hearing a party say the defendant was speeding, the defendantís attorney could introduce an expert, at trial, who will argue that the speedometer, at the instance of the crash, registered the speed at 34 mph, within the 35 mph speed limit for the street.

Also, depositions allow the attorneys to see how their client will react to questions from a hostile attorney under oath. It gives an attorney some indication of how their client will perform, and whether they will make a "good witness." Often, if a witnessí performance is not good, this may lead to the settlement of a case early, since that witness may be required to provide a great testimony appearance at a trial to convince the jury or judge of the truth of their case.

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