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Deposition Advice Needed

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liznindy

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Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Indiana
Well, it happened! :? I am going to be giving a deposition (and probably testifying in court at a later date) in regards to a review appraisal I performed for an attorney client.

So, I am asking for good advice (do's and don'ts) from those who have experience in testifying (or giving depositions).


Thanks in advance.

Liz
 

Dick Dolman

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Jan 29, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Alaska
Liz,

Depositions can be stressful if you allow them to be. Do a careful and thorough review of your file and while doing so you will probably see facts or statements that you are certain to be questioned about. Pledge to yourself to confine your responses to "Yes", "No", or if you do not clearly remember something, "I don't recall". Don't guess. Listen carefully to questions and don't be reluctant to ask that a question be repeated if you don't understand it. That's when the depostion can be entertaining, watching the lawyers squirm because you don't volunteer anything. About half the time they don't understand the issues and are poorly prepared.
I caused an attorney to have absolute apoplexy once when even though I knew that he meant to ask a question, he didn't. Instead he made a statement such as, "Determined that the financial statements didn't balance". I sat mute. He looked at my attorney and said, "Counsel, please remind your client that he must answer the question". My attorney looked at me and said, "You have to answer". I responded, "He didn't ask a question and in fact didn't even utter a sentence". When the reporter did the read back, my attorney said "My client will answer if you want to re-phrase that allegation as a question". I just grinned. Got a lot of grins in as that attorney stumbled all over himself and finally gave up.

Let us know how you did.
 

Stephen J. Vertin MAI

Senior Member
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Jan 17, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Illinois
Liz:

Depositions are far more grilling than trial. The attorneys can ask most anything. Furthermore, they can ask it in any manner they wish. Many become very aggressive. They are trying to scare both you and the opposing attorney before trail. Remember, most tone down when a jury is present, they do not want to look to aggressive or nasty. This turns a lot of jurors off. Keep your answers short and to the point. Do not be intimidated and remember you know more about the subject than the attorney grilling you. You really feel like you have earn your money after most depositions.

Steve Vertin
 

David S. Roberson

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Jan 16, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Tennessee
Liznindy;

Here are a few suggestions for court testimony; I hope they are of some use to you.

Wear something neat and presentable that makes you look professional, and most importantly makes YOU feel confident. First impressions do make a difference in the way you are perceived.

Make sure you hear the entire question being asked. Sometimes attorneys talk too fast, mumble, talk to their notes, etc. Do not hesitate to ask the attorney to restate the question. Never answer a question you haven't completely heard.

Make sure you understand the question. Some attorneys use words no one, including themselves, understand. They will sometimes use poor grammar, including multiple negatives. This makes for a question that is difficult to understand. If you do not understand any question, or any part of it, do not be afraid to ask the attorney to rephrase the question.

Do not guess. Court testimony is not a conversation, where you can politely agree with someone you do not understand, with no consequences. Nor is it a debate, where you try to convince the other attorney that your position or case is correct. Your only job is to answer questions asked of you. You can only answer a question if you KNOW the answer. And if you do not KNOW the answer, you cannot truthfully answer it. Guessing will weaken your testimony faster than anything else. DO NOT GUESS OR SPECULATE.

Do not volunteer information or documents that have not been asked of you. Most people get nervous during testimony, and react to this nervousness by being overly cooperative. This is not your job here. Your only job here is to answer questions. If you think there is something that should be added, your attorney will probably ask it during the re-cross. Don't try to do your attorney's job.

Do not lose control of your emotions. If you get mad or upset, you will lose your credibilty. The other attorney does not hate you. They are just doing their job. I have many friends who are attorneys, and some of them have attacked my credibility and competence in court, after which we share a good laugh and cash our checks. It's just a business for us and them. Keep that in mind. If the other attorney does go too far, your attorney will step in for you. Let him yell at the other attorney. Again, don't try to do his job. If you do get emotional, take a deep breath, or ask for a break. There is nothing wrong with this; it's done all the time. And it will hurt your credibility less than losing control!

Do not try to explain or correct out of context statements. If you are asked a loaded question that results in an undesirable answer, just give the answer. Your attorney will give you the opportunity to explain the answer later.

Tell the truth. And don't say "I'm telling the truth!" to underscore the honesty of what's being said. People tend to discredit those who use phrases indicating degrees of honesty.

Watch out for Trick Questions:

1. "Are you telling me under oath....."
Of course you are. Everything you are saying is under oath.

2. "Have you talked with your lawyer about your testimony?"
Answer- "Yes. He told me to be prepared and to tell the truth."

3. "Would you agree that....."
If asked a question like this, be very careful. The other attorney is not going to ask you to agree with something that supports your position.

4. "Tell me everything about......."
This is going to be a vague question, fishing for something to attack. Ask the attorney to be more specific.

Remember, these are just people you are talking to. One of them had diahrea last week. One of them has a deadly fear of moths. One of them got drunk in college and puked on his pants. Don't be intimidated.
 
A

Anonymous

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Remember in a deposition, if asked the same question in court, your answer dang well better be the same as in the deposition.
 

Austin

Elite Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
Professional Status
Certified General Appraiser
State
Virginia
What you say in this deposition will be analyzed and the basis of cross examination when this case gets to court. So, keep your mouff shut! Answer yes or no and don't expound on anything. If you don't have anything to say, then don't demonstrate the fact by talking 15 minutes to prove it. Suppress your personality and personal identity and give machine like responses.
 

Jeff Horton

Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Alabama
You have received some great advice. I am basically going to repeat what has been said. I was involved in a case once that was very serious. It was not appraisal related though. My lawyer gave me some advice when it came to my deposition.

Make the attorney work. Dont volunteer information. Yes and no are good answers. Great answers!

When yes and no don't work. Think about it and answer as simply and short as you can. Do not ramble. That is just asking for them to trip you up.

Don't let him/her intimadate you or think they are your freind.

If you don't remember say you don't remember.

Ask them to repeat their questions if you need.

Basically the same advice you have been given. I sat throught the depostions and got to hear them questions others before it was my turn and they do like to intimadate you. Just don't let them. Remember no one knows you appraisal better than you!
 

liznindy

Thread Starter
Senior Member
Joined
Jan 15, 2002
Professional Status
Certified Residential Appraiser
State
Indiana
Thank you all for your advice. I have never been to court, or given a deposition, before (other than to serve on a jury).

I do not necessarily have my own attorney in this matter as my client (for the review assignment) was an attorney. I don't consider him/her my attorney.


Should I ask for the check up front?! :wink:
 

bradellis

Member
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
Liznindy,

You have received some very sage advice from the others in here. All are correct. Short answers- answer only what is asked- get the ? repeated if you did not hear it or understand it.

You are correct about the attorney not representing you. You will almost assuredly be acting as an expert witness. Be professional.

I would only add that you should obtain a copy of your deposition before you actually appear in court. Go over it thoroughly so you remember EXACTLY what you said. The opposing attorney may try to trip you up and get you to say something that contradicts your deposition statements- the easiest way to cast a shadow on your veracity. If he/she references your deposition, most judges will allow you to look at it before you answer a specific question.

Brad Ellis, IFA, RAA
 
Joined
Jan 16, 2002
All postings have given you excellent advise, hopefully, I can do the same.
The last go-around took all day, until 6PM, being drilled by a gestapo government attorney sent in from Washington DC (and IRS issue with a homeowner). Maintain your cool, and DO NOT ALLOW them to brow beat you. Use their ignorance of the issue to your advantage. If they ask a question that makes no sense, say so. They will try to twist the facts to fit whatever their agenda is, and get you to agree to it - don't cave into the pressure. Memorize your subject like it's the back of your hand, look'em straight in the eye, and answer the question the best you can.
 
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