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Silver Spring MD Wrongful Termination Law Blog

Your Deposition the Essence of the Case

On behalf of Morris E. Fischer, LLC posted in Deposition, Employment Discrimination on December 1, 2014

An employment law case has many important and intricate parts. However, the two most important parts of the case are the plaintiff’s deposition in the pre-trial discovery portion of the case and the plaintiff’s cross-examination at trial. Many clients mistakenly believe that if a jury detests the employers witnesses and doesn’t believe them that alone will win a large verdict. However, this is far from the case.

The most significant factor a jury weighs in awarding damages and assessing liability is the credibility of the plaintiff. Total strangers are only going to award a large sum of money to a plaintiff if those strangers are sympathetic to that person. One of the primary purposes of a plaintiff’s deposition is to gather bits of information that will make the plaintiff not believable at trial.

What happens at a deposition? The plaintiff will essentially be interviewed under oath by a defense lawyer who will ask the plaintiff to tell his or her story detailing how the plaintiff was allegedly wronged. The defense lawyer will ask many follow up questions to each portion of the plaintiff story. In doing so, the defense lawyer is looking to undermine the plaintiff credibility through any of the following:

  1. Looking for any changes in the story from when that story was first recorded by the plaintiff. In a typical discrimination case, for example, a plaintiff will already have told his or her story to the company, EEOC, in the complaint filed with the court, and in interrogatories. Any change in that story, including adding critical details in that story never reported before, will undermine plaintiff’s credibility. Therefore, it is essential that prior to your deposition that you review every document in which you previously told that story.

  2. The defense lawyer is looking for details of your story that are incredible. People tend to embellish when they repeat a story and sometimes, some of the details they throw in, very likely could not have happened.

  3. The defense lawyer is looking for you to admit fault in each stage of the story. The defense lawyer may ask you “Are you sure? Are you positively sure? Do you have any regrets?” people tend to want to agree with almost anything, especially under pressure. Consequently many plaintiffs will backpedal from critical testimony.

To best prepare for your deposition, first, study all of the documents listed above and any other documents in which you have previously told your story. Second, practice telling your story with some who you share confidence with, someone like a spouse. (Don’t share your story with anyone with whom you don’t have a legally confidential relationship).  Third, watch the interview that Officer Darren Wilson gave to George Stephanopoulos http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/exclusive-watch-george-stephanopoulos-full-interview-police-office-27186831. Whatever one thinks of the situation in Ferguson, this interview is an excellent example of what happens at a deposition. You’ll notice the news reporter questions in detail each aspect of the officer’s story, then asks the officer to admit fault. Finally, take the mock deposition that our office gives each client prior to the deposition seriously.

Remember, a good deposition will generally translate into a good settlement.