What Can And What Can’t Be Asked At Your Deposition?
If you are called to testify at deposition, you may have some concerns about what may be asked of you. This is not an easy question to answer. Unlike in the movies, and in some other states, generally in Florida, there is no judge at a deposition. That means that what happens at deposition is largely up to the attorneys, and what they agree or disagree can and cannot be asked.
Objecting to Questions
When a question is asked that a party disagrees with, the party can object. However, the party being deposed still must answer. There is no judge sitting there to make determinations or rulings on the spot as to whether a question can be asked.
If the parties truly cannot work out a resolution, there are limited options. The asking party can reserve the right to ask the court to make a determination at a later date. If the court determines that a question should have been answered, but was improperly objected to, the court can order the parties (and you if you are being deposed) to show up again, for another deposition, to answer the previously objected to questions.
In some cases, if the judge feels a refusal to answer was frivolous, the judge can order the objecting party to pay the other side’s costs and attorneys fees.
Refusing to Answer
There are only certain circumstances where a party can outright refuse to answer a question at a deposition.
This is because a deposition is supposed to be a fact finding exercise, and a way to get information that may lead to admissible evidence at trial. The things that can be asked, and which must be answered, in a deposition are not necessarily the same things that are admissible in trial. In fact, a lot of what is asked in a deposition is completely inadmissible at trial.
Privileges and Waivers
Any question that asks privileged information or invades on a privilege, such as attorney client or doctor patient privilege can be objected to.
Questions that ask about a party’s personal finances also cannot be asked or answered during a deposition. Overly personal questions, or questions that may just be harassing, or which could subject someone to criminal prosecution also do not have to be answered.
Of course, something that is privileged, or which can be objected to, may have to be answered, if a party puts the information into the case as an issue.
For example, someone couldn’t ordinarily ask you if you have had mental health treatment in the past at your deposition. But if you file a complaint saying that something has caused you mental distress, you have now put your mental health into the case, and thus, opened the door for that information to be asked, and answered, at your deposition.
Call the West Palm Beach business litigation lawyers at Pike & Lustig for help if you are involved in a lawsuit, or need help with any part of commercial litigation.