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Have you ever been subpoenaed?


Specializes in OB-Gyn/Primary Care/Ambulatory Leadership. Has 15 years experience.

What was your experience?

Yep. I have been subpoenaed to testify in deposition regarding opinions I offered in cases. I'd have gone to trial except they've all settled.

Depositions are usually taken in an atty office conference room or a conference room in a hotel or remote video studio. You go in, you sit down, the court reporter checks sound levels (recording as well as video, if they do video), and you are sworn in to tell the truth and all that. If the subpoena has required you to bring documents or materials, you must bring them. But if it doesn't say the magic words, "subpoena duces tecum," and just asks you (or tells you) to bring them, you don't have to. Ask your attorney to be sure.

Then you answer questions. Your attorney should prepare you for this experience by saying things like:

1) Don't interrupt. Wait until the question is out, then pause. This gives your atty a chance to object prn.

2) Never explain or expand on an answer. Answer ONLY the question asked. Briefly. Then shut up. (This is particularly hard on nurses, as we like to explain and teach. Not today, OK?)

3) If a question is asked in a way that you can't answer it clearly, say so.

4) Don't let the questioner put words in your mouth. Beware a question that begins, "So, isn't it true that.." or "Would it be fair to say that..." or uses the word "speculation" or a bunch of double negatives.

4a) In deposition, unlike in trials on TV, they can ask you the same question over and over. Always give them exactly the same answer, in the same words. They will eventually get tired of trying to get you to say something else.

5) Don't answer hypotheticals. Say you can only speak to what you know of your own knowledge about the matter before you because every case is different.

6) Never, never lie.

7) If you don't know, say so. If you need to refer to a document, ask to see it, and take your time reviewing it.

8) Don't explain or volunteer information you haven't specifically been asked for. (I said that before, but it bears repeating.) If the other party isn't asking better questions to get better answers, that's his fault, not yours.

9) You can ask for a break any time- water, bathroom, lunch....

10) Your goal is to finish.

klone, MSN, RN

Specializes in OB-Gyn/Primary Care/Ambulatory Leadership. Has 15 years experience.

This isn't a deposition (I think). It's a motions hearing. And I will not have my own attorney there.

Thank you for those tips, though.

KelRN215, BSN, RN

Specializes in Pedi. Has 10 years experience.

I fully expected to be after the state took custody of one of my patients because of something I found in the home but I haven't. The state is incredibly sloppy with their investigating- they didn't even request my records, just those from the pediatrician's office- but the parents only have court appointed lawyers and they're not really contesting anything. Heck, they were supposed to have a follow-up court date 3 months ago and it got canceled and has yet to be rescheduled.

blondenurse12, MSN, NP

Specializes in Family Practice. Has 13 years experience.

I have been subpoenaed three times. Once I had to go to court and testify in front of a jury for a legal blood draw, it was pretty uneventful. The second time I ended up being deposed which was an arduous process if the attorneys are not prepared. It was the only deposition I've done and the hospital attorney was with me. She was very nice but the person who was suing the hospital's attorney was not prepared and basically just asked me random questions for two hours. One important thing I learned, especially if this is three or four years out from the actual incident, is to not be afraid to say you don't remember something. It's better than trying to make something up or thinking you maybe remembered something. The third time, I think I was subpoenaed in error and nothing ever came of it. The case was settled before it went to court.

NicuGal, MSN, RN

Specializes in NICU, PICU, PACU. Has 30 years experience.

I have been 4x. Everything GrnTea said. Don't elaborate, don't say anything extra, if you don't understand what is asked speak up. Your attorney will prep you and help you answer.

My depositions have always been at my hospital in our lawyers office. You will be give a copy of your notes to review prior to this. I had to read every word I wrote out loud. And don't forget the difference between nursing diagnosis and medical diagnosis! Two of my cases, by time they went to trial, were 20 years old (peds and OB are 18 years).

Good luck, it really really sucks.

HouTx, BSN, MSN, EdD

Specializes in Critical Care, Education. Has 35 years experience.

Deposed 3X - all related to education/competency processes & information that were relevant to clinical claims. Very arduous, but each time, I was thoroughly prepared by the organizational legal team, who were by my side during the entire process. I learned a LOT from these experiences.

This isn't a deposition (I think). It's a motions hearing. And I will not have my own attorney there.

Thank you for those tips, though.

You can ALWAYS have your own atty there. They can't say no to that. Call your malpractice insurance TODAY and tell them. If you are going to be testifying under oath, you should have your own (not the hospital's) atty at your side.