Deposition: What is it?
Discovery of the Facts in a Civil Lawsuit
If you have been involved in a civil lawsuit, including a divorce, you may have heard the term deposition. A deposition is yet another discovery tool available in civil legal proceedings. Like interrogatories, one of the purposes of a deposition is to discover information about your adversary’s case or defense, and to narrow the issues prior to trial.
A deposition is taken outside of court, and typically takes place at one of the attorney’s offices. A deposition is oral testimony taken under oath and recorded by a court reporter. Sometimes depositions are also video taped. The attorneys representing all of the parties are also present. The person being deposed is questioned and by the attorney requesting the deposition then the other attorneys including his own attorney is allowed to ask questions as well. Typically attorneys will object to certain questions, but unlike court testimony, deposition testimony is for the purpose of discovery, so most questions are allowed and there is not a judge present so these objections simply become part of the written record the transcript. The general rule in depositions is that questions are designed to discover factual information or lead to the discovery of unknown facts and evidence admissible in court.
Deposition Testimony and its Use in a Trial
Deposition testimony, like any other testimony, can be admitted into evidence and can be used at trial to impeach a witness. For instance, if a person testifies in a deposition as to a particular issue, then changes the story at trial, the transcript of the deposition can be introduced to impeach or call into question the truthfulness and reliability of the witnesses testimony at trial.
There are times that a case will settle shortly after depositions due to the testimony which is given. This is one of the prime reasons attorneys use depositions, in order to find a way to have the lawsuit dismissed if a defense lawyer, or to motivate a settlement if a plaintiff’s lawyer.