Business leaders in New York who find themselves entwined in litigation of any kind are looking for results. Whether they started it or not, litigation can seem to drag on at times—sometimes leaving people on one side or the other feeling like there is no end in sight. Without a doubt, one of the most difficult parts of a civil case is the “discovery” phase, when both sides are asking the other for information, answers to questions, copies of documents and, of course, for certain individuals to sit for “depositions.”
What, exactly, is a “deposition”? In short, it is just one tool in the overall discovery process, and it involves one side asking questions to a potential witness on the other side in an out-of-court, face-to-face information gathering effort. No two depositions are the same, of course, but there are commonalities to the process.
For example, depositions usually do not involve the court. They occur between the parties, typically at a mutually arranged location that is convenient for both parties. The office of one of the attorneys, for example, will be a common location for a deposition. A court reporter is present to record the deposition and, afterward, type up a record of the interaction. Also—and this is important—the person who is being asked the questions, known as the “deponent,” is under oath when answering questions, just like testifying in court.
While a deposition is typically more informal than courtroom testimony, the fact remains that what is said by the deponent can become a crucial part of the case for the other side. Sometimes, depositions can seem like “fishing expeditions”—with one side or the other casting about for previously unknown information. However, while they can seem tedious and inconvenient, depositions are likely to be a part of most business litigation cases.