Many years ago “trial by ambush” was often the norm. Attorneys arrived at the first day of a trial not sure exactly what the other side was going to use as evidence in a case. All of this changed in the 1950s, with the introduction of the modern rules of civil procedure.
Pretrial “discovery” rules now enable each side in a case to obtain details on the evidence that the opposing side will use at trial. This transparency not only makes for more fair trials, but the exchange of detailed information makes it more likely that the parties will settle the case before the trial even begins.
One of the tools used in pretrial discovery is the deposition. In a deposition, a witness is subpoenaed to attend, and is then questioned by the attorneys in the case. The testimony is taken under oath, and is recorded by a licensed court reporter. Although the deposition takes place outside of a courtroom, the deposition can often be used at trial. Therefore, it is very important that deposition witnesses listen carefully to the questions asked, and answer with similar care and reflection.
Sometimes a person’s deposition is taken as a prelude to adding that person as a defendant to the lawsuit. Therefore, if you have been subpoenaed to attend a deposition, and you have any concerns about your own potential liability in the case, it would be wise to consult with an attorney prior to your deposition.
When facing litigation, you should select an experienced trial attorney to assist you.