If you own a business and are facing the prospect of litigation, you can be reasonably confident that opposing counsel will subpoena you for a deposition as the case proceeds toward trial. Depending on the nature of the case and the issues involved, certain of your key employees may find themselves with subpoenas as well.
As your deposition date approaches, it is important that you take steps to prepare. Knowing your obligations, what to expect from opposing counsel, and how to interact with your attorney during the deposition are all critical to limiting the deposition’s value without putting your company at risk for facing discovery sanctions in the litigation.
Here are four basic steps you can take to help prepare yourself for a civil deposition:
#1: Understand What It Means to Be Deposed.
A deposition is a discovery tool that attorneys use in civil litigation to collect oral evidence from key witnesses – commonly business owners, executives and other key employees. Depositions are taken under oath, and giving false deposition testimony can have severe consequences. You have the right to legal representation during your deposition, and you will want your attorney in the room so that he or she can raise objections on the record. By objecting during the deposition, your attorney will be able to argue for the exclusion of testimony solicited through improper questioning at subsequent stages of the litigation.
#2: Train Yourself Not to Speculate.
While your attorney can – and should – object to improper lines of questioning during your deposition, in most cases you will still need to answer opposing counsel’s questions. However, you only need to – and only should – answer questions when you know the answer. If you find yourself making statements that begin with, “I guess…” or “Maybe…,” you will want to work on breaking this habit for purposes of your deposition.
#3: Focus On Answering the Question Asked.
In addition to focusing on what you know, in a deposition it is also critical that you focus on only answering the question that was asked. If opposing counsel asks, “Are you the sole owner of ABC, Inc.?” your answer should be: “Yes.” It should not be: “Yes, I started the company 10 years ago. I had an idea one day in my garage and the next thing I knew I was opening a store on Main Street. I currently…” While you generally need to answer the questions asked, you do not want to volunteer any additional information.
#4: Meet with Your Attorney.
Any article you read online about preparing for a deposition will only scratch the surface, and of course it will not be specific to the facts and circumstances involved in your case. In order to fully prepare, you need to sit down with your attorney to review your previous discovery responses, the pleadings in the case and the questions you are likely to face during the deposition. There have been many cases where disastrous depositions have led to disastrous results, and you need to make sure that your deposition testimony will not torpedo your case.
Contact Fort Lauderdale Trial Litigation Attorney Michael L. Feinstein
Michael L. Feinstein is an experienced litigator who represents clients in complex business and commercial litigation throughout the greater Fort Lauderdale, FL area. To discuss your case in confidence, call the law offices of Michael L. Feinstein, P.A. at (954) 767-9662 or request an initial consultation online today.