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The discovery phase of your business litigation

As a southern California business owner, you have worked hard to protect your company from any risk to its success and growth. This includes drafting a solid contract for your clients, a thorough employee handbook and a zero-tolerance harassment policy. You offer training for your staff and oversee the daily operations to ensure quality.

Nevertheless, you are facing a civil lawsuit. This may be new territory for you, and the process is understandably unfamiliar. While your attorney will guide you through stages of the case, you may find it helpful to have a general understanding of one of the most critical parts of the process: discovery.

A deposition

In a criminal trial, discovery is the period of time when the prosecutor and the defense attorneys share the information they have, including names of witnesses, vital evidence and mitigating factors. Unlike TV dramas and movies, there are rarely surprise witnesses or shocking revelations in the courtroom, and often the attorneys know how a witness will answer before they ask the question. In a civil case, discovery proceeds differently.

Before your case goes to trial, you and anyone in your company who is involved in the dispute may participate in a scheduled deposition. Depending on the nature of the case, other witnesses may testify as well. During the deposition, which typically takes place in an attorney's conference room, the attorneys will ask you questions under oath while a transcriber records your answers. You are bound under penalty of perjury to be truthful. Your opponent may also give a deposition.

What does your attorney do with the information?

At some point during the discovery phase, your opponent's counsel will request certain documents or other items pertinent to the case. Your attorney will make the same request of your opponent. Discovery documents may also include interrogatories, which are like questionnaires sent to anyone who may have important information to contribute concerning the case. Your attorney may also consult with experts who will be willing to offer their professional and experienced interpretation of the evidence at trial.

Your attorney and the attorney for the other side will use the information obtained during discovery to build their case. Most civil cases do not go to trial but end up settled through negotiations, and the facts you provide during discovery may convince your opponent to offer a you a favorable settlement or drop the case altogether.

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Chodos & Associates
1880 Century Park East
Suite 615
Los Angeles, CA 90067

Toll Free: 866-986-7255
Phone: 310-598-3405
Fax: 310-203-3866
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