What is a Deposition?

What is a Deposition?

What is a Deposition?

Most people have seen a television show or movie where the plot revolves around a lawsuit. Attorneys and their clients show up in the courtroom ready to ambush their opponent. Neither side knows what the witnesses will say or what evidence will be introduced. While this plot makes for great entertainment, it could not be further from reality. In a lawsuit, both parties go through a process called discovery. Discovery allows each party to ask the other questions called interrogatories, request documents, and ask the other party to admit or deny statements. Another tool used in discovery is a deposition. Unlike interrogatories, requests for production, and requests for admission, a deposition is a question and answer session that usually occurs face-to-face. A deposition allows the attorneys for both parties to ask a witness questions under oath. In addition to the attorneys for both parties, the witness and a court reporter are present. The court reporter creates a record of the deposition by typing every word spoken. Unlike a trial, the judge and jury are not present. The deposition serves the purpose of allowing both parties to learn what the witness knows and preserve the testimony for trial. Since depositions are under oath, an effective attorney can lock witnesses into their testimony. If the witness attempts to change his or her testimony at a later date, the attorney is allowed to attack the witness’ credibility using their deposition. The appearance of a witness during their deposition is also important. Attorneys will try to assess the witness’ credibility and imagine how a jury may view the witness’ appearance and demeanor. While a written answer may appear credible, the witness’ actions could cause the attorney to believe additional evidence exists. Moreover, the attorneys will likely find information and facts not previously known, which gives them an opportunity to test their theories of the case. Discovery is not only about finding favorable facts, as it is equally important to understand the weak aspects of a case. An attorney certainly does not want to find negative information for the first time at trial. Furthermore, after reviewing the evidence, an attorney and client may decide settling the case is in their best interest. Since discovery allows both parties to understand the facts well before trial, the vast majority of cases settle.