Court subpoena - page 2

by Simply Complicated

6,810 Views | 20 Comments

First, just to clarify, I am NOT asking for legal advice. I was subpoena'd to court as a witness to something regarding a patient, related to something not to do with the hospital. I've never been to court, so I'm pretty nervous.... Read More


  1. 17
    call your malpractice insurance people stat so they can send an atty to look after your interests.
    from one of my resources:

    • think before you speak.
    • ask for time to review any written material before you answer a question, if needed.
    • if you make a mistake, correct it at once and apologize.
    • do not help the opposing attorney by volunteering information. be brief and concise with your answer. if more information is needed you will be asked for it. this requires the attorney to develop additional questions without your assistance.
    • if asked a yes-or-no question, give a yes-or-no answer. do not nod or say, “uh-huh.” however, if in your opinion it cannot be answered with a simple yes or no, say so and ask if the question can be rephrased.
    • wait for the attorney to complete the full question. avoid pregnant-pause traps: these are used so you will be tempted to jump in and complete the question or add additional information.
    • pause slightly before answering any question. this allows your attorney the chance to object to it if needed. if your attorney objects, stop talking, and wait for permission to answer the question.
    • if you do not completely understand or hear a question, politely ask for it to be repeated.
    • if a question is being asked in many parts, politely ask which part you should answer first.
    • the opposing attorney may ask you to make a conclusion by asking, “do you think…?”, “do you imagine…?”, “isn’t it possible…?” respond with, “i don’t know,” or, “i’d rather not guess.” you may be asked to provide an opinion to a specific hypothetical question. your answer can then be, “the answer to this hypothetical question is….”
    • the opposing attorney may ask the same question repeatedly throughout the deposition in an attempt to get a different answer. do not become frustrated; answer the question consistently and calmly.
    • do not be goaded into anger, sarcasm, or humor. should the opposing attorney talk fast, yell, or whisper, remain calm and continue to speak in an even tone. you control the speed of cross-examination. the attorney can ask the question as fast as he wants, but you are allowed to answer the question in your own time before being asked another.

    a final point: attorneys use depositions to evaluate the opposing side’s expert. careful preparation, an appropriate appearance, good listening skills, honesty, objectivity, and a professional demeanor increases your credibility as a nurse.
    Zookeeper3, DeLana_RN, Meriwhen, and 14 others like this.
  2. 2
    Usually, your legal department briefs you. Did you give a deposition? To go on the stand, you have to give a deposition first. You have to get the chart from legal, you can't just ask to see the chart. Are you actually going to the courthouse?

    I have been called as a witness in several cases and I have always had a briefing with our legal department and gone thru the chart with them, then given a deposition, then called to court MONTHS after. This doesn't sound right at all. And they should be contacting you by phone, not email. They usually follow up by email once they meet with you. And if this is truly the case and you have not been prepared then if you have malpractice insurance I would be giving them a call right now.

    Edited: The above was posted at the same time as mine...and those points are WHY your legal department should be working with you. It is a whole different ballgame when you are on that stand and if they haven't prepared you and gone over your documentation, you could be hung while you are up there. Being on the stand is not anything I would wish on anyone...they will ask you 5 things 5 different ways and twist what you said. And if you don't know, say I don't know or I don't recall. Don't try to fudge thru something and don't elaborate, that is what your defense team is for, they will let you elaborate by guiding you thru a testimony. But that is what concerns me...that you aren't prepared.
    brandy1017 and lindarn like this.
  3. 1
    Quote from Altra
    I'm just explaining how I would have approached this: if I received word on Thursday that I was to appear in court on Monday ... I would have been speaking with my manager that day and making arrangements to come in to work sometime between Thursday and Sunday to review the chart, no matter how inconvenient. Life happens.
    I recieved word TODAY that I have to be there tomorrow. I only work part time, so while they sent the email to my work email on Thursday afternoon, I did not actually recieve it until today. That was why I was asking if anyone else had been to court, just so I have a rough idea what to expect. We do not have managers here on the weekends. I work in psych, the hospital nursing supervisor is available for any major issues, but otherwise we are on our own.
    lindarn likes this.
  4. 1
    [QUOTE=caliotter3;6397778]
    Quote from Simply Complicated

    You would not have this. If they want you to refer to the documentation, it will be shown to you. You normally prepare by looking at copies of the documentation with your attorneys prior to the event. Your employer should be involved with the process of preparing you. If they are not helping you, I would wonder what is their stance about your involvement.
    I don't think they care much either way, to be honest. This is a private issue for someone who was a patient here months ago, myself and another nurse are called as witnesses because our name was involved due to manadatory reporting we did. It doesn't involve the hospital, and has no bearing on our nursing practice or anything we did or didn't do.
    lindarn likes this.
  5. 3
    Quote from grntea
    call your malpractice insurance people stat so they can send an atty to look after your interests.
    from one of my resources:

    • think before you speak.
    • ask for time to review any written material before you answer a question, if needed.
    • if you make a mistake, correct it at once and apologize.
    • do not help the opposing attorney by volunteering information. be brief and concise with your answer. if more information is needed you will be asked for it. this requires the attorney to develop additional questions without your assistance.
    • if asked a yes-or-no question, give a yes-or-no answer. do not nod or say, “uh-huh.” however, if in your opinion it cannot be answered with a simple yes or no, say so and ask if the question can be rephrased.
    • wait for the attorney to complete the full question. avoid pregnant-pause traps: these are used so you will be tempted to jump in and complete the question or add additional information.
    • pause slightly before answering any question. this allows your attorney the chance to object to it if needed. if your attorney objects, stop talking, and wait for permission to answer the question.
    • if you do not completely understand or hear a question, politely ask for it to be repeated.
    • if a question is being asked in many parts, politely ask which part you should answer first.
    • the opposing attorney may ask you to make a conclusion by asking, “do you think…?”, “do you imagine…?”, “isn’t it possible…?” respond with, “i don’t know,” or, “i’d rather not guess.” you may be asked to provide an opinion to a specific hypothetical question. your answer can then be, “the answer to this hypothetical question is….”
    • the opposing attorney may ask the same question repeatedly throughout the deposition in an attempt to get a different answer. do not become frustrated; answer the question consistently and calmly.
    • do not be goaded into anger, sarcasm, or humor. should the opposing attorney talk fast, yell, or whisper, remain calm and continue to speak in an even tone. you control the speed of cross-examination. the attorney can ask the question as fast as he wants, but you are allowed to answer the question in your own time before being asked another.
    a final point: attorneys use depositions to evaluate the opposing side’s expert. careful preparation, an appropriate appearance, good listening skills, honesty, objectivity, and a professional demeanor increases your credibility as a nurse.

    thank you! that contains some helpful tips .
    lindarn, nursel56, and LibraSunCNM like this.
  6. 2
    Still call your malpractice insurance as they are there for just the type of scenario, even if you are only a witness and not a party to the suit. Stick to the facts and don't interject opinions when the simply stated facts will do. Never been to court but I've seen my sister in action (she's an ADA for a major US city/county) while she does criminal not civil work, her supervisors sent her to linguistics classes & professional speaking seminars so she could learn how to use language and speaking techniques to get her point across and the judge/jury on her side of the argument. Quite interesting to watch from a sociological perspective
    lindarn and GrnTea like this.
  7. 2
    Quote from Simply Complicated
    Thank you! That contains some helpful tips .
    Pay careful attention to what GrnTea said to you. Always will goad you and poke you. They will twist what you say and try to trip you up. KEEP IT SIMPLE. OFFER NOTHING. Take a deep breath before answering. They will try to discredit you. Grn Tea gave you excellent advice. Print it out and carry it with you. Have good eye contact. NO GUM. Dress professional. Stay calm. Speak clearly. Answer simply and honestly and ask to read your notes if they are referring to them before answering the question. If you don't remember then you don't remember.

    Let us know how it goes.
    lindarn and SHGR like this.
  8. 3
    I have had to testify in court a bunch of times as a nurse. It's almost routine for me now. In most cases I was an witness and was involved due to our roll as a mandatory reporters in abuse cases. Think ER and - "Hello little girl my name is PMFB and I am a nurse. Can you tell me how you got these burns?" Little Girl: "My step daddy did that with his lighter." OK this means a call to the cops and eventualy I will likely recieve a subpoena to testify. It has never been any big deal. I am asked to describe my assessment finding (alwasy have had my charting to refer to) and to state what I was told by the victim (again with my charting to refer to). Cross examination is usually limited to "Nurse PMFB are you SURE that's what she said?" and a few similar questions. In more than 12 court appearences no lawer has ever gotten nasty with me or tried to trip me up.
    One time when I was being prepared as a witness by a medical malpractice attorney in a law suit aginst a neuro surgeon he told me something very interesting. He said that just about every person in the jury would have a friend or relitive who is a nurse, none of them are likely to know a neuro surgeon. Becuase if this juries are sensitive to nurses being abused on the stand. A lawer who rakes a witness nurse over the coals risks alienating the jury. He said jurys think nurses are in a position to know what is going on and what happend but not in a position to gain financialy either way. Everybody knows we are paid by the hour. We get paid weather the patient gets his operation or not. According to him this gives RNs vast credabiliety with jurys. Add to that societie's perception that we are trust worthy and honest.
    Follow the great advice given to you by Grntea and try to relax. I am sure it won't be as bad as you fear.
    lindarn, JustBeachyNurse, and Altra like this.
  9. 1
    Quote from PMFB-RN
    I have had to testify in court a bunch of times as a nurse. It's almost routine for me now. In most cases I was an witness and was involved due to our roll as a mandatory reporters in abuse cases. Think ER and - "Hello little girl my name is PMFB and I am a nurse. Can you tell me how you got these burns?" Little Girl: "My step daddy did that with his lighter." OK this means a call to the cops and eventualy I will likely recieve a subpoena to testify. It has never been any big deal. I am asked to describe my assessment finding (alwasy have had my charting to refer to) and to state what I was told by the victim (again with my charting to refer to). Cross examination is usually limited to "Nurse PMFB are you SURE that's what she said?" and a few similar questions. In more than 12 court appearences no lawer has ever gotten nasty with me or tried to trip me up.
    One time when I was being prepared as a witness by a medical malpractice attorney in a law suit aginst a neuro surgeon he told me something very interesting. He said that just about every person in the jury would have a friend or relitive who is a nurse, none of them are likely to know a neuro surgeon. Becuase if this juries are sensitive to nurses being abused on the stand. A lawer who rakes a witness nurse over the coals risks alienating the jury. He said jurys think nurses are in a position to know what is going on and what happend but not in a position to gain financialy either way. Everybody knows we are paid by the hour. We get paid weather the patient gets his operation or not. According to him this gives RNs vast credabiliety with jurys. Add to that societie's perception that we are trust worthy and honest.
    Follow the great advice given to you by Grntea and try to relax. I am sure it won't be as bad as you fear.

    Thank you for your input! I am a witness to something that is similar to what you described, so your response has been very helpful! I think I'm just nervous as I've never been to court, lol. For anything, not just work related.
    lindarn likes this.
  10. 1
    I have also been to court to testify about evidence I collected for various criminal cases. The above mentioned advice is very sound. Volunteer nothing, take your time to answer, be sure to occasionally look at the jury when you answer, wear a dress or skirt and not pants (I was advised that in a courtroom a female witness is generally perceived as more credible if she is not wearing pants; ymmv), if the opposing attorney phrases a question in such a fashion that you need to qualify a yes/no answer make sure to look at your attorney to help signal that you want them to cross examine you so you can elaborate or more accurately answer a question.

    It is rather unnerving to walk into a courtroom, approach the witness chair and be sworn in and have yourself the total focus of attention but it is doable if you mentally prep yourself. Also be aware that you will be sequestered until such time as your testimony is required so bring a book to occupy yourself. If there are other witnesses in the waiting area you may not discuss the case at all has been my experience so I always brought something to read.
    lindarn likes this.


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