A deposition can happen in almost any type of lawsuit or litigation – such as a car accident, a workers’ compensation claim, a business dispute or family law issue. Although the type of litigation may vary, the rules of a deposition are typically the same. Also, a deposition can be quite frightening in any type of litigation.
What is a Deposition?
Depositions are a legal proceeding wherein attorneys obtain sworn testimony for parties of the lawsuit or from witnesses. Anyone can be compelled to give a deposition. During depositions, attorneys ask the deponent (the person who is giving the sworn testimony) questions that are relevant to the subject matter of the litigation or that could lead to relevant information relating to the litigation. Thus, attorneys are given wide latitude in the kind of questions they can ask a party or witness.
Procedures Relating to Depositions
Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.310 set forth the rules relating to a deposition. If an attorney wants to obtain the sworn testimony of a party or witness, they must first file a Notice of Taking Deposition and provide a copy to all the parties involved in the litigation. The Notice must state the date, time and place of the deposition If the attorney wishes to videotape the deposition, they are required to tell the deponent and the other parties. If the attorney cannot get assurances that the deponent will attend the deposition voluntarily, the attorney can subpoena the person to attend. Refusal to attend a deposition after being subpoenaed could result in sanctions.
Who is Present at Depositions
Typically, the people at depositions include all the attorneys in the case, the deponent, and a court reporter. The court reporter is the person that is typing all the questions and answers word-for-word so it can be typed up later to be used later in the litigation process. Although this is typically the people in the deposition room, there is no rule that states that others cannot sit in. In fact, all parties of the lawsuit are permitted to sit in all depositions in their case. As for non-parties, they too are arguably permitted to sit in during depositions. However, an attorney can ask the court to exclude a nonparty from a deposition if there is a showing of compelling evidence of annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue expense to the deponent. Florida Rule of Civil Procedure 1.280.
Basic Rules of a Deposition
The most important rule of a deposition is to tell the truth. Most attorneys already know the answer to most of the questions they ask. They are testing the deponent to see if they will be truthful. As a party, being untruthful in your deposition can cost you your case as well as perjury charges. As a witness, false statements made under oath can have both civil and criminal penalties.
Secondly, there is a court reporter there taking down all spoken words. Thus, it is important that no one speaks over each and that everyone answers verbally (no nodding or shaking of head). This is hard to do because we are used to talking over each in everyday speech.
Although attorneys have wide latitude to ask questions, there are some limitations. Rule 1.310(d) states that at any time during the taking of the deposition, a party or even the witness can terminate depositions upon a showing that the examination is being conducted in bad faith or in such manner as unreasonably to annoy, embarrass, or oppress the deponent or party. The Judge would have to decide the issue and rule on whether the deposition should continue.
Depositions can be frightening for a party or witness. Often they feel like they are under a microscope even though they did nothing wrong. However, depositions play an important role in painting a more complete picture of the events in question. They are crucial to both sides in the preparation of their case for a jury trial.
Personal Injury Attorney Matthew Noyes represents those injured in car accidents, motorcycle crashes, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents and other types of personal injury matters. He is a named partner at the Tampa Bay law firm of Perenich Caulfield Avril Noyes – one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Pinellas County. Call Attorney Matthew Noyes now at 727-796-8282 or complete the form on this page or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.