In many cases, whether they be a family law case, business litigation case, probate case, or another case, the discovery process can be quite important. The discovery process is essentially a way for both parties to gain access to information that will be important as evidence at the final trial. While movies may only show the climactic final trials, the truth is that much of the work that goes into a case is wrapped up in the discovery phase of the case. During this phase, both sides may send written questions to each other, request documents, and also, take depositions of certain key witnesses.
A deposition can be incredibly useful during this process as a way to gain information. Essentially, a deposition is a meeting where all parties and their attorneys are present, and one attorney is given the opportunity to ask a witness about the facts in question. In many ways, the questioning for these depositions is much like you would see at trial. But, the deposition has several advantages that make it particularly useful as a pre-trial tool. These include the following:
1) A deposition gives you the opportunity to ask a variety of questions, even if they may not be admissible at trial.
For instance, at trial there are strict evidenciary rules regarding hearsay (e.g. “Joe told me that he heard people snickering after the boy fell down); but, in a deposition, you ask questions about this type of hearsay. While you may not be able to use that evidence at trial, it may lead you to other evidence that is admissible at trial.
2) A deposition gives you an opportunity to take a “first bite at the apple” before the real trial
In this way, you can test out certain questions, the witness’ reaction, and how they may answer at trial.
3) A deposition can be used to discredit a witness who later changes their story
Any witness who is deposed is required to swear under oath that their answers are true and correct. Therefore, if a witness tells one story at the deposition, but then changes their story at trial, it is easy to discredit that witness by showing their blatant inconsistencies.
4) A deposition can let you know what evidence you may still need to search for
By asking a broad set of questions at a deposition, you are able to gain information that may lead you to good evidence that you knew nothing about previously. When witnesses start to talk, they sometimes “spill the beans” on certain information that will lead you to evidence that is crucial to your side of the argument.
While depositions are not necessary in every litigation case, they can be helpful in many situations. If you have a question about depositions or any other litigation matter, please call our Richardson Business Attorneys at 214-236-2712.