Clients always ask what is the purpose of taking a deposition? In order to understand why in a civil case an attorney representing a party takes a deposition, we must first understand what a deposition is.
A deposition is a pretrial procedure. A deposition is taken in front of a court reporter. The court reporter transcribes oral testimony to a written form called a transcript. To be more blunt, it is a formal question and answer session between an attorney and a witness.
The purpose of deposition testimony is two fold. First, deposition testimony is designed to fully determine, in advance of trial, what a particular witness will testify to under oath. Secondly, deposition cross-examination is designed to"lock down" witness testimony such that if the witness changes his story at trial, his trial testimony can be impeached with his prior inconsistent deposition testimony.
The deposition witness may be a party to a lawsuit, a fact witness in a lawsuit or an expert witness.
In the context of a personal injury case, a fact witness may have personal knowledge of observable facts surrounding a specfic event. That event may be a fall, a car accident or in a medical malpractice case a medical procedure.
An expert witness who provides deposition testimony generally takes material facts and formulates an opinion on a salient issue in the personal injury case. An expert will often have multiple opinions often called subordinate opinions to his or her underlying thesis.
It is the job of the deposition taker, the cross examiner, to see if the thesis and/ or subordinate opinions offered by the expert on the other side are factually, forensically and scientifically supportable. The deposition taker often tries to limit the negative effect of any adverse expert opinion by providing the expert with additional material facts which may alter the adverse expert opinion.
Often with litigation, expert credibility issues arise. An expert may have a general tendency to testify for one side as opposed to the other side. Many expert witnesses generally either testify for the plaintiff side of a case or the defense side of a case. It is the job of the cross examiner to explore any bias that an expert may have in a case. This can be accomplished by examining, in a deposition, the deponent's billing records, attorney/ witness personal relationships and the expert "case work" history.
The typical expert in a civil personal injury case may be an engineer, physician, economist or accountant.
While a deposition is often categorized as either a discovery deposition or as an evidentiary deposition, all depositions are really evidentiary in the sense that they will, if done properly, secure admissions to be used at trial.
The Rotatori Law Firm, practicing personal injury law in Stamford and New Haven County, hopes this gives you some fundamental knowledge into what a deposition is and what a deposition is designed to accomplish in a civil case.
Regards, Peter Rotatori, III