Depositions in the McKinney Dog Bite Case
A deposition is a sworn testimony given by a person with knowledge of a matter in a case. A deposition is the same as live testimony in front of the court in Texas, meaning that the person has sworn that their testimony may be read to the jury or played back if it is on a videotape. That testimony is entitled to the same weight and effect as someone that comes in front of the jury to give a testimony. Depositions are not limited to just the parties involved in the case. Often depositions are done for other fact witnesses, like expert witnesses or witnesses that may be difficult procuring for trial. A trial deposition is done mainly for experts that both sides put together for what they think the direct and trial cross is going to be. That is done outside of trial to be played during the trial. In the McKinney dog bite case, the depositions played a significant role in the success of the claim.
How Many Depositions Took Place?
For this particular case, three depositions took place. These were oral depositions of the person that was injured, of the defendant, and of the defendant’s husband at the time. We had what we needed on liability by that point, because these depositions were not done immediately upon filing a lawsuit. The paper discovery was done first. We had much of the information that we needed, and we were able to use that information to track down what our answers were and what facts the jury was going to hear if it got to the jury. There are two different types of depositions that are done. One is factual discovery and the other is the trial type of depositions. Once a lawyer starts a fact discovery deposition, which means they are seeking information, they are seeking broad information and in-depth information in certain subject areas that they have pre-identified before a deposition.
Unlike what many people think, the deposition process is not just a lawyer showing up asking some random questions. Depositions are planned out in advance. They look at the other discovery that has come in, the requests for production, the actual production, and the documents, and develop questions based on those documents potentially on areas that open up for additional exploration.
Sometimes the lawyer might get a discovery answer that leads them to believe that there is something more they may want to develop by deposition. Every lawyer starts with a template based on the type of case they are doing. In a dog bite case, there is a template for the information wanted from the person that owns the dog or maybe the witnesses that were at the scene.
Preparing for the Depositions
We prepared for the deposition by having planning meetings to go over the deposition and what might be asked. We knew we were dealing with someone who was experienced in the process and could handle herself in the process. In this particular case, our client had extensive contact with the legal system over a long period of time.
For people that have not had extensive experience in the deposition process, depositions can be scary. Lawyers want to make sure that the client understands what is going to happen, that they feel prepared, and that they are prepared to handle 95 percent of what is likely to be asked. That is one of the reasons that we like doing early paper discovery, requests for production, interrogatories, and disclosure. We want to have all of the facts available to prepare the client for their deposition. The last thing we want is a client who does not feel confident and who feels that they could be ambushed because they are not well-prepared. To get them well-prepared for the deposition, we typically meet with them in advance, once, twice, or sometimes three times, depending upon their level of comfort with what is going to occur and who they are dealing with on the other side.