Saturday, February 4, 2012

Videotaping All Depositions On The Cheap?

Pittsburgh personal injury lawsuits inevitably involve depositions- question and answer sessions of the cases witnesses. I have participated in many depositions in Allegheny County and across Pennsylvania that were simultaneously videotaped. But these videotaped depositions have always involved a third party audiovisual company coming in, setting up and charging an arm and a leg for their services. As you can see from the picture attached, videotape depositions get complicated with AV companies get involved.  The associated cost and set up deters many attorneys from videotaping more of their depositions.

The practical applications of videotaping depositions are many. They serve as a deterrent to annoying opposing attorneys who seek to disrupt the flow of your questioning with countless objections. They also deter attorneys from stating objections that coach their client how to answer questions. But more than that, the time between taking a deposition and trial can often be lengthy. It is nice to be able to go back and remember how a particular witness appeared while they testified. Also, if you like to run focus groups like I do, you can use excerpts from all of the witnesses videotapes as part of the focus group to get a more accurate response from people regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the case (often times the greatest strength or weakness can be your client).

So I have been thinking a lot about how to videotape more of my depositions without incurring the several hundred dollar cost professional companies charge. And then I thought, well, couldn't I just videotape the deposition myself? So I took at closer look at the current rule of civil procedure in Pennsylvania regarding the videotaping of depositions promulgated by Allegheny County's own Judge R. Stanton Wettick. The rule is as follows (I have bolded the areas of importance):

Rule 4017.1. [Videotape] Video Depositions.

(a) Any deposition upon oral examination may be taken as a matter of course as a video deposition by means of simultaneous audio and visual electronic recording. Except as provided by this rule, the rules of this chapter governing the practice and procedure in depositions and discovery shall apply.

(1) Any party may have a video deposition recorded simultaneously by stenographic means as provided by this chapter.

(2) A video deposition may be used in court only if accompanied by a transcript of the deposition.

(b) Every notice or subpoena for the taking of a video deposition shall state:

(1) that the deposition is to be taken as a video deposition,

(2) the name and address of the person whose deposition is to be taken,

(3) the name and address of the officer before whom it is to be taken,

(4) whether the deposition is to be simultaneously recorded by stenographic means, and

(5) the name and address of the video operator and of his or her employer. The operator may be an employee of the attorney taking the deposition.

(c) The deposition shall begin by the operator stating on camera (1) his or her name and address, (2) the name and address of his or her employer, (3) the date, time and place of the deposition, (4) the caption of the case, (5) the name of the witness, and (6) the party on whose behalf the deposition is being taken. The officer (the court reporter) before whom the deposition is taken shall then identify himself or herself and swear the witness on camera. At the conclusion of the deposition the operator shall state on camera that the deposition is concluded. When the length of the deposition requires the use of more than one videotape, the end of the videotape and the beginning of each succeeding videotape shall be announced on camera by the operator.

(d) The deposition shall be timed by a digital clock on camera which shall show continually each hour, minute and second of each videotape of the deposition.

(e) No signature of the witness shall be required.

(f) The attorney for the party taking the deposition shall take custody of and be responsible for the safeguarding of the videotape and shall permit the viewing of and shall provide a copy of the videotape or the audio portion thereof upon the request and at the cost of a party.

(g) In addition to the uses permitted by Rule 4020 a video deposition of a medical witness or any witness called as an expert, other than a party, may be used at trial for any purpose whether or not the witness is available to testify.

(h) At a trial or hearing that part of the audio portion of a video deposition which is offered in evidence and admitted, or which is excluded on objection, shall be transcribed in the same manner as the testimony of other witnesses. The videotape shall be marked as an exhibit and may remain in the custody of the court.

So the key points here are:

1.  that anyone can take the videotaped deposition of a witness.  There is nothing, save cost, prohibiting one from videotaping every witness deposed in a case.

2.  The operator may be an employee of the attorney taking the deposition.  So you can have some other person from your office act as the videographer.  This has me wondering, to simplify things further, can you, as the attorney, be the videographer?  I see where things could get complicated when the attorney is asking questions and simultaneously making sure the video is well maintained.  But I think it could definitely be done.  Because I am envisioning taking a tripod and video camera to all my depos and just doing this all myself.

3.  The deposition shall be timed by a digital clock on camera which shall show continually each hour, minute and second of each videotape of the deposition.  I have not yet been able to figure out how to get this to work on my own video camera.  But I am guessing it would not be hard to enable this function or purchase a reasonably priced camera that does have the function.  This is a small obstacle to overcome in order to have a video copy of all witness testimony in a case.

I anticipate incorporating in upcoming depositions.  I will update on how things go.

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1 comment:

  1. I found this blog very informative. Thank you..!! The service of video deposition helps in exhibiting and enhancing the usage of technology by organizing the database of all the important documents so that they can be easily accessed when needed. The service of video deposition is a far richer tool than any stenographic transcript. The quality of video deposition is much more likely to keep a jury's attention to the case. Now a days, there are many legal firms that provide the service of video deposition. You can even find many experts video deposition reporters in Philadelphia, that assure every advantage of trial case with complete digitization and synchronization.