What is a Deposition and what is its purpose in civil litigation?

Lisa Sherman
California Labor & Employment Attorney

A deposition is sworn testimony given under penalty of perjury.  It has the same force and effect as testifying under oath in a court of law.  A deposition has several purposes.

  • To find out all facts, documents and persons who may have knowledge of any of the allegations and/or defenses in the lawsuit and the basis of their knowledge, so if the deponent testifies at trial, there are no surprises,
  • To obtain admissions from the deponent that can be used in court filings or to impeach the witness if inaccurate or testimony changes,
  • To obtain all information that supports or refutes the remedies/damages sought,
  • To ascertain any testimony that is irrelevant, or relevant but unduly prejudicial, or will cause an undue consumption of time at trial, upon which a party will seek to exclude any such evidence by motion prior to trial,
  • To authenticate evidence, i.e., that it is what it is purported to be,
  • Obtain information on all communications, electronic and otherwise, with all parties that may be relevant to the action, preservation/legal hold and uncover any potential spoliation issues (i.e. information destroyed, deleted or no longer available),
  • To assess the credibility of the deponent, including, professionalism, demeanor, eye contact, habits, temper, informal conversations off the records, the foundation for his/her testimony, recollection, exaggerations, overstatements, changes in mood/composure, responsiveness, or lack thereof, to specific questions asked, any and all actual or potential biases, interactions with the parties, all of which are used to determine how the deponent will be perceived by a jury,
  • To assess opposing counsel, his/her experience, when retained, style of questioning, follow-up, thoroughness, knowledge of law, facts, and allegations, attention, interest in the case, objections, coaching, use of breaks, client control, preparation of deponent for deposition, review of document demands, and documents marked as exhibits, etc.

For more information, feel free to contact our office at (213) 341-4417.