Written by Galen T. Shimoda and Jennet F. Zapata
An attorney takes the deposition of a party or a witness to determine that person's knowledge regarding the claims and allegations involved in the lawsuit. Testimony given at a deposition may be used for many purposes, including the following:
- Impeaching that person's testimony or to use it as substantive evidence against a party;
- To seek an admission to certain allegations;
- To "pin down" the testimony of a party regarding his or her claims;
- To submit the testimony obtained to the court, at a court hearing and at trial;
- To request documents, in which case the witness will have to bring more documents to the deposition and will have to explain the meaning or significance of such documents;
- To demonstrate inconsistencies in an opposing party's testimony at trial;
- To use the testimony as a substitute for live testimony at trial;
- To use the testimony in judicial arbitration hearings;
- To preserve testimony in case a party becomes unavailable in the future due to age, illness or moving away.
Deposition testimony may be used when a party is considered to be unavailable through no fault of his or her own, such as when:
- The deponent dies;
- When the person is unable to attend or testify because of existing physical or mental illness, or infirmity; or
- When the person resides more than 150 miles from the courthouse.
The burden is on the party seeking to introduce the deposition to establish one or more of the factors mentioned above.
In sum, deposition testimony will be used throughout the life of a case, including an appeal, if the case goes that far. For these reasons, it is important that the testimony given at a deposition be accurate and truthful to avoid being impeached in the future.
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