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Litigation Corner

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Liza C. Moore
Foster Swift Agricultural Law Update
August 21, 2014

What Happens in a Deposition?

We have all seen lawyers peppering witnesses with questions in fast-paced, high-tension situations in legal dramas on television or in the movies. But what happens in a deposition in real life, and when do they occur? Depositions involve the questioning of a witness under oath and are usually taken during the time period in a lawsuit known as discovery, which is typically after the defendant has answered the complaint and the court has set a scheduling order for the case. Discovery is when the parties obtain information they need to prove their case. Each court has its own rules setting requirements for how parties can ask for and give information in discovery. The parties may ask people with knowledge about the plaintiff’s claims or the defendant’s defenses to testify in a deposition during discovery so the parties will learn what the deponent (person to be questioned) knows. Sometimes a deponent is asked to bring all of the documents he or she has about the case along to the deposition. The deponent affirms that he or she will tell the truth in a deposition, meaning the deposition is under oath. Usually a deposition happens outside of court. During a deposition, attorneys ask a witness questions and everything said is typed word-for-word by a court reporter. Attorneys may instruct a witness not to answer to preserve privileges, such as the attorney-client privilege, or object to the way another attorney asks a question. The parties use the typed transcripts of the deposition in the lawsuit.