If you haven’t already, please read the first post “Four Keys To Alabama Plaintiffs Being Prepared For Depositions – Background”.
The first key to being prepared for a deposition is to make sure you have this firmly planted deep in your mind – you must hear the question. We know this sounds so basic – maybe even childish but let’s examine it.
Remember our metaphor of going to a police station and being accused of murder? The detective asks you questions and records your answers. What would you do if he asked you a question and you only heard half of the question? Maybe the fan comes on. Maybe someone rattles a cup full of ice. Maybe someone coughs. Maybe he is a “low talker” like the famous Seinfeld episode. Maybe he intentionally or unintentionally turns away from you or looks down at notes while he is talking. Whatever the reason – how would you answer this – “Isn’t it true that …… 3 o’clock ….. at the victim’s house?”
Do you say “Yes” because you were at the victim’s house? That part is true but is “Yes” a true response to the parts you did not hear? What if the parts you didn’t hear included “and you had a gun in your hand” when you didn’t? Would it be truthful or would it be a lie to say “Yes” to that?
Remember the goal is to always answer the question asked in a truthful and accurate manner. You have sworn or affirmed to tell the truth. How can you do that if you don’t even hear all of the words of the question? You can’t.
The only time you should answer a question is when you have heard the question. That means every word of the question.
What do you do if you haven’t heard every word of the question? Simply ask the person to repeat the question.
Over the last 24 years of actively defending hundreds of depositions of our clients, we have had only one lawyer ever (and it was just once) refuse to repeat a question when asked to by our client. That was fine as our client did not have to do anything but sit there. If there is no question asked, no answer is required. When the lawyer realized he could not intimidate our client, he moved on.
There truly is much power in this first rule – if you don’t hear the question (all of it), you don’t answer the question. If you do hear the question (all of it) then you go to the next rule, which is to make sure you understand each and every word of the question and you understand the question as a whole. This is addressed in the post “Second Key To Alabama Plaintiffs Being Prepared For Depositions – Understand The Question”.