First thing – don’t panic. A deposition is a method in a civil lawsuit in Florida by which a party can obtain information by asking questions directly to the deponent. They are generally transcribed by a court reporter and can also be videotaped. Simply put, they are like a Q and A session, but can sometimes be a critical junction in a lawsuit and can make or break the strategy of a party.
Please Note: This article is not meant to provide legal advice or to form an attorney-client relationship; it is meant only to provide general information about this topic. This article is written on the perspective of a business lawsuit in a Florida State Court. With litigation in particular, each matter is factually distinct, therefore, it is best to consult with your attorney as to the particular circumstances of your case.
In Florida, it is possible to depose someone before a lawsuit is filed, but such instances are not common and most depositions occur during the discovery phase of a lawsuit. The discovery phase is normally after the pleadings or documents forming the suit are filed with the Court, but before a trial.
Procedurally, the participants coordinate the time and date for the deposition and provide written notice, which, in State Court unlike Federal Court, is filed with the Clerk of Court. If the person or corporate representative being deposed is not a party to the lawsuit, then the notice is in the form of a subpoena and is served by a process server unless such service is waived. Thus, because our Courts oversee the process to a certain extent, failure to appear or participate can result in sanctions unless there is a proper basis to do so.
If you are a represented party to a lawsuit, your attorney will discuss where and when the deposition will occur, who will be there, and what you can expect. The most important thing your attorney will tell you is always tell the truth. When you begin a deposition, you will be placed under oath to tell the truth. Not only it is improper and illegal to intentionally violate that oath, but it will seriously damage or destroy your credibility and claims if you don’t tell the truth.
Your attorney will also discuss whether you should review any documents before the deposition and whether you should bring any materials to the deposition. Some other important Dos and Don’ts in preparing for a deposition are:
- Don’t volunteer information particularly where no question ahs been asked
- Don’t divulge what you and your attorney have discussed unless your agree in advance with your attorney to do so
- Do listen to the question and consider your answer – it’s ok to take your time
- Do inform the attorney if you don’t understand the question and ask the attorney to rephrase it
- Don’t guess – it is acceptable to say “I don’t know”
- Do always tell the truth
- Don’t try to answer questions about documents without seeing the documents
- Do review any document provided to you fully before answering a question about the document
- Do inform your attorney if you need to take a break or if you are uncomfortable or unsure of anything
- Do be sure to answer verbally to make it easier on the Court Reporter – nods of the head don’t translate well in a transcript and “uh-huh” can mean a variety of things
- Do dress appropriately if the deposition will be videotaped (you’ll know in advance)
- Don’t try to outsmart the other lawyer or to play lawyer
- Don’t accept the other attorney’s statements, representations, “facts” or opinions unless they are absolutely and unquestionably accurate
David Steinfeld, Esq.
Florida Bar Board Certified Business Litigation Lawyer
Martindale-Hubbell AV-Preeminent (Highest) Peer Review Rated
Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org