The coronavirus situation has had a dramatic impact on the processing of damage cases. Requirements for social distancing and, in some states, requirements to shelter at home have brought the judicial process to a halt. In many jurisdictions’ trials have been stopped and courthouses virtually closed. However, there is a need for ongoing discovery procedures to preserve evidence in anticipation of when trials will resume. One possible solution involves remote teleconferencing meetings and teleconferencing depositions. Technology allows one to connect to others from home or office through the telephone, tablet, computer or even mobile device. The technology allows depositions to be taken remotely through state-of-the-art equipment while participants are in different location rather than in the same room with the witness.
Both remote conferencing and depositions can be done by telephone or by video and online communication. Technology allows multiple parties to remotely participate or observe a deposition of a witness in another location. Here are five basic things to consider in this regard.
1. Location The video teleconferencing location should be carefully selected. The factors to consider include the background in the location and room located behind the witness being deposed. Avoid distracting background. Also consider the location of the witness in the room in relationship to the video camera, microphone or telephone. Sitting by a window for example, can cause lighting problems for the camera image. Eliminate background noise. Choose a location with minimal background noise. Be sure to turn off all telephones and telephone interruptions.
2. Time zones. Consider time zones. Be sure to coordinate with all the participants the correct time of the deposition in light of remote locations and time zones to avoid confusion.
3. Technology. It is important that the technology used is of good quality. The speakers and sound system should be checked to ensure that that there is clarity. The lighting for the witness should be appropriate for the camera. With telephone depositions be sure to have an effective speakerphone at the location or a sound system that works well.
4. Body Language Be aware of body language and facial expressions of your witness and yourself if on camera. Do not move around and avoid background noise.
5. Prepare in advance. Preparation is the key to having the most successful depositions.Coordinate with opposing counsel. Working with opposing counsel can benefit by discussing trial technology, procedure and cooperative measures in advance. Consider exchanging exhibits ahead of time through email. Bear in mind, however, there may be disadvantages to doing this in connection with a deposition of a defense witness. Give some thought to inviting your client to participate. Clients may want to attend the deposition electronically. Be sure to review software and technology which enables people in other locations like your experts or associate lawyers or others involved in the case to audit the deposition. Get advice from the court reporters who are experienced with this process.