Introduction - Why Attorneys Make Objections During Depositions
Attorneys who defend witnesses during depositions are not supposed to interfere with the attorneys asking questions unless they ask questions that (1) will invite witnesses to divulge privileged information, or (2) were prohibited by court orders, or (3) could not lead to the discovery of relevant evidence.
Some relevant evidence may not be admissible during trial. So attorneys may object to soliciting relevant evidence they believe will not be admissible.
Attorneys may object to the way a question was asked or answered (Form Objection). They may also object if the other attorney has not established how a witness could know the answer to a question (Foundation Objection). They will waive their clients' rights to object if they fail to make some objections.
When making their objections, attorneys should keep it brief. They should say "Objection" and then briefly explain the basis for the objection. Below are a few objections and the reasons why they are made.
Objection: Compound Question
This objection is an appropriate objection to a question's form when the questioning attorney asked a question that contains more than one question. It is important that the witness understand and answer each question presented during a deposition. The witness's ability to understand and answer each question can be jeopardized when a questioning attorney combines two or more questions in a single question. When a witness is asked a compound question, the witness may ask the questioning attorney to break up the questions and ask one question at a time so the witness's sworn answer to one question will not be mistaken as a sworn answer to another question.
Objection: Assumes Facts Not In Evidence
This objection is an appropriate foundation objection when the questioning attorney asked a question that contains information or facts the witness has not demonstrated he or she has personal or expert knowledge of. The witness may or may not be able to answer the question without speculating unless the witness has personal or professional knowledge. When a witness is asked a question that assumes facts not in evidence, the witness may ask the questioning attorney to direct the witness to the document or prior testimony where the facts may be found. If the facts exist, the witness may review them before answering the question. Reviewing the facts before answering the question will help the witness ensure he or she provides an accurate answer that is consistent with his or her prior answers.
Objection: Misstates Prior Testimony
This objection is an appropriate form objection when the questioning attorney asked a witness to confirm, deny, or explain prior testimony but misstates the prior testimony. If the witness answers the question even though it misstated prior testimony, the witness can contradict his or her prior testimony or another person's prior testimony without realizing it. That could make the witness appear inconsistent or incredible. When the witness is asked a question that misstates prior testimony, the witness may ask the questioning attorney to direct the witness to the prior testimony so the witness may review it before responding. This will help the witness make sure the questioning attorney does not put words in the witness's mouth.
Objection: Incomplete Hypothetical
This objection is an appropriate form or foundation objection when the questioning attorney asked a witness to provide an answer or opinion based on a hypothetical set of facts but the hypothetical leaves out important information that the witness would need to know to provide his or her accurate opinion or answer. If a witness answers an incomplete hypothetical question, the witness runs the risk of being tricked into speculating, guessing, or providing an answer that is inconsistent with prior testimony. When a witness is asked an incomplete hypothetical question, the witness may ask the questioning attorney to provide additional information that would enable the witness to answer the question without speculating or guessing.
Objection: Vague or Ambiguous
This objection is an appropriate form objection when the questioning attorney asked a question that is so vague or ambiguous that the witness has to guess about its meaning or the meaning of key words the questioning attorney used. If a witness answers a vague or ambiguous question after incorrectly construing its meaning, the witness runs the risk of the questioning attorney construing the questions meaning differently when discussing the witness's answer in court documents or during court proceedings. A witness who wants to make sure his or her answers will be accurate and will not be taken out of context, misunderstood, or misconstrued later may ask the questioning attorney to restate the question or define key words so the witness can make sure he or she understands exactly what the questioning attorney is asking before providing an answer.
Objection: Asked and Answered
This objection is an appropriate form objection when the questioning attorney asked a question that was previously answered on the record. When a witness is asked the same question he or she answered earlier, the witness may ask the questioning attorney to refer to the witness's previous answer or ask the questioning attorney to let the witness review his or her prior answer before responding to the same question again. This will help the witness ensure that answers to questions that have been previously asked are properly clarified, corrected, or quoted for the record.
Objection: Calls for Speculation
This objection is an appropriate foundation objection when the questioning attorney asked a question that would require the witness to make a wild guess or to speculate. If a witness lacks the personal or expert knowledge to provide a factual answer, then the witness may inform the questioning attorney he or she does not have enough information or knowledge to provide an accurate factual answer. If the witness wants to offer an opinion, the witness may inform the questioning attorney that he or she does not have enough information to provide a factual answer but does have an opinion. When a witness answers a question with his or her personal opinion, the witness may indicate this by stating the following phrase at the beginning of the answer: "My personal opinion is ..." A witness may also answer a question that would require him or her to guess or speculate by stating: "I don't know" or "I don't know enough to answer your question."
This objection is an appropriate form objection when the questioning attorney asked a question that was designed to frustrate, upset, chastise, harass, disrespect, or offend the witness but was not designed to solicit new evidence from the witness, When a witness is asked an argumentative question, the witness may ask the questioning attorney to please repeat the question, this time more calmly and respectfully. If the questioning attorney refuses to stop asking the witness argumentative questions, the witness may warn the questioning attorney that if he or she continues to exhibit unprofessional behavior the deposition will be cancelled for the day and must be rescheduled for a time when the questioning attorney will be able to show the proper respect for the witness.