Firm Founder Gordon Levinson frequently shares his insight on personal injury law with members of the legal profession through regular contributions to local publications and attorney organizations. This includes his continued involvement with Consumer Attorneys of San Diego (CASD), a trial lawyer organization that functions as a beneficial resource for legal professionals across San Diego County who have dedicated their practice to protecting the rights of plaintiffs. In an article published by CASD’s Trial Bar News, Attorney Levinson drills down into the handling and raising of objections during deposition.
Mr. Levinson’s article – Appropriate Objections in a Deposition – focuses on the process and importance of depositions in civil cases. Depositions are often a critical component of personal injury cases, and they essentially serve as a question-and-answer session with the defendant. During depositions, victims, witnesses, and other parties will give testimony in court. This information will be used to allow both sides to prepare for trial, should a settlement not be reached.
During depositions, which can be costly and time-consuming endeavors, inappropriate objections can significantly obstruct proceedings. Mr. Levinson notes a number of examples of these types of objections, including those that are irrelevant, hearsay, assumptions of facts not in evidence, calling for opinions, and blatant attempts to coach witnesses or mislead juries.
Given the weight depositions hold in personal injury proceedings and at trial, Mr. Levinson stresses the fact that attorneys should be asking themselves which objections are appropriate. He reminds lawyers about several points:
- Depositions are for conducting discovery, which means that under the scope of permissible discovery are non-privileged matters relevant to the subject matter involved, either as admissible evidence or reasonably calculated for the discovery of admissible evidence. As such, attorneys should always keep an eye out for questions and objections seeking privileged information, irrelevant information, or information that is not reasonable calculated to the discovery of admissible evidence.
- While non-privileged information and not reasonably calculated questions are relatively straightforward and easier to identify, questions and information that is not relevant to the subject matter are a more difficult concept to understand. For the purposes of discovery, relevancy is best viewed as anything that is helpful for evaluating a case, preparing for trial, or facilitating settlement negotiations. However, courts will consider whether any benefits of allowing discovery will outweigh the burdens. Ultimately, attorneys should remember the there is broad scope when it comes to permissible discovery.
- The scope of objecting to questions in a deposition is narrower than at trial. As an example, it is permissible to ask a deponent questions that call for hearsay, information that might itself be technically irrelevant to an issue or that calls for an opinion, even from a lay witness. While the answers to those questions might be inadmissible at trial, they are helpful since they might lead to follow-up questions that uncover admissible evidence. As such, objections such as “hearsay,” “irrelevant” and “calls for an opinion” are generally improper in a deposition.
- It is permissible to seek information that is cumulative, so objections on those grounds are improper. However, there is an exception to this general rule involving discovery taken from non-parties, and fishing excursions on non-relevant information are likely not to be permitted. Asserting a privilege is a proper objection in a deposition. Such privilege objections include attorney-client, doctor-patient, self-incrimination, and more.
- Proper objections in a deposition also include objections to the form of a question. These kinds of objections include claims that the question is ambiguous, confusing, compound, calls for an undue narrative, calls for speculation, is argumentative or leading. These objections don’t need to be controversial. If your opponent objects to the form of your questions, simply rephrase the question. Don’t butt heads about whether the objection was proper or not.
- Other grounds for objection in a deposition include objections to defects regarding the oath or affirmation, defects in the deposition notice, and objections involving misconduct by a party, an attorney for a party or the court reporter.
Knowing the difference between proper and improper objections in a deposition can help lawyers better represent their clients, which is why Mr. Levinson frequently shares his experience and insight as a former insurance defense litigator with fellow civil attorneys. When local plaintiffs’ lawyers are better equipped to handle these issues, local residents have better chances of securing the justice and compensation they deserve.
Gordon Levinson and our entire legal team are committed to furthering the quality of representation for victims and families across Carlsbad and the San Diego region. This includes our firm’s commitment to fighting on behalf of victims and families who have suffered preventable damages in a range of accidents and incidents, including auto accidents, truck accidents, and more. To discuss a potential case, call (760) 642-5475 for a FREE consultation.