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When Are Depositions Used?
When Are Depositions Used?

Depositions are used extensively in civil cases during the discovery phase of litigation. All 50 states allow them. Their purpose is to discover new facts and evidence about a case. A party to a case can be compelled to testify in a deposition through a properly served notice for that purpose. Witnesses can be compelled to testify in a deposition through a properly served subpoena for a deposition.


The deposition of a party or witness is ordinarily taken at the offices of one of the attorneys representing one of the parties to the litigation. They might also be taken at the offices of a court reporting firm. One attorney might even borrow the conference room of another attorney not involved in the litigation for this purpose. Depositions might be taken in other states when necessary. With modern technology, the attorneys for the respective parties might be located in their own offices while the witness appears on a video screen at a court reporter’s office or video facility to testify

Discovery Depositions

Depositions are used by attorneys for many purposes. The strength of the testimony of a witness and his or her credibility might be assessed through the use of a discovery deposition. The prior testimony of a party or witness in a deposition might be used to impeach that individual if his or her trial testimony is inconsistent with their deposition testimony. That can affect the person’s credibility. A jury is permitted to weigh any inconsistent testimony and assess the credibility of a witness.

Records Depositions

Both medical and employment records can be obtained through the process of a subpoena for a records deposition. The keeper of records for the deponent will gather all records requested by the attorney who issued the subpoena. The records are then photocopied and mailed to the attorneys who requested copies of them. They will be accompanied by a signed certification that they fully complied with the subpoena.

Evidence Depositions

If a witness is gravely ill, a subpoena for an evidence deposition is allowed to be used to obtain and preserve his or her testimony. Physicians are often deponents in personal injury cases. Rather than interrupt the physician’s practice with travel and waiting time outside of a courtroom, his or her court testimony is often provided through an evidence deposition in a conference room at their office, clinic, or hospital. That testimony is usually video recorded and played for the jury as if the doctor was actually in the courtroom testifying. Prior to the evidence deposition, a discovery deposition is usually taken in order to learn what the doctor would testify to in court.

Scope of Discovery

The scope of a discovery deposition is intended to be broad. The various states are generally in agreement that discovery and records depositions are permitted when they’re relevant to a party’s claims or defenses. In cases when an abuse of discovery is alleged, a party has the available remedy of seeking a protective order from the court that limits the scope of discovery.

Cases can be won or lost on discovery depositions and related discovery techniques. Thorough preparation of a case during the discovery phase will often preclude the necessity of a trial. Good cases usually settle after thorough discovery and depositions, so having a good court reporter Livingston NJ attorneys rely on can make or break your case.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Veritext for their insight into depositions.

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