An important part of our asbestos litigation practice at Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood, is preparing for trial. On both sides of a case, preparation involves taking depositions. This often keeps our attorneys on the road traveling to wherever the deposition will be held. But we wouldn’t miss one for the world. They are just too important. Why?
You can be sure we know the law and legal precedents that apply to each case. But what we don’t always know and aim to find out is what information key witnesses in each case possess. Why? Because what they know will inevitably come to light during the trial and we don’t want any surprises. Nor does the other side.
To put it simply, a deposition is a formal interview under oath normally conducted out-of-court by an attorney. It yields oral testimony given by a witness without a judge present. The purpose is for the attorney to discover key information that may be relevant to the case. The witness can also be examined by the opposing counsel – the attorney the other side hired – who invariably is also present.
After the questioning is finished, the deposition is transcribed to written form and studied carefully by lawyers during the time leading up to the trial as each looks for information to support their arguments. That’s why a hired court reporter or stenographer is also part of the deposition process. Often the deposition is recorded on video, which can be edited so that relevant portions can be shown at trial.
Abraham Lincoln, who practiced law for 25 years in Illinois before entering politics, once said that harm comes not from use of a bad thing but from misuse of a good thing. So it came to be with the vital legal procedure of taking depositions.
We care about the results, and spend the time necessary to get to the important facts. Lawyers defending asbestos cases get paid by the hour, not for results, and there are usually lots of them at every deposition – so they like to drag things out as long as possible – for them, time is money!
On September 17, 2012 – almost exactly a year ago – California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that Kazan Law was instrumental in advocating. AB 1875 limited how long a deposition could take. Deposition abuse – extending depositions of victims for days on end – had become a problem not only for those suffering from asbestos-related diseases but for other ailing people as well. AB 1875 limited depositions of ill and dying victim to two days of seven hours each, for a total of 14 hours. Exceptions can be made if a judge decides that more time is absolutely necessary.