With over 99% of civil legal cases settling before jury verdict, Trial Guides asked some of its authors to comment about how their book can be used not just in trial, but how to settle your case using their methods.
An Interview with Paul Scoptur, co-author of Advanced Depositions: Strategy and Practice
Obtaining Maximum Settlement Offers After Deposition
By taking exceptional depositions, you get excellent settlements. A book on advanced depositions helps you get better settlement value on your case.
Whether or not the case goes to trial, you have to do this anyway. You need to neutralize or take out the defenses on the case. Every time you take out a defense, you’re raising your settlement value, and working toward maximizing the settlement value, or maximizing the trial value.
For example, if you get concessions from the defendant that they were negligent, you’re taking out a defense. If you get a witness to testify that they breached a standard of care, that takes out a defense.
I recently deposed some people on a nursing home case. The question wasn’t “did this patient eat cooked meat” but instead, “If he had cooked meat, and the doctor said he shouldn’t, that would be below the standard of care, right?” Now I just have to prove from the coroner’s report that he had it.
The depositions advance the ball forward. Now it’s not about the standard of care. Now it’s, “is the coroner right or wrong.”
In Rules of the Road, and our book, in the chapter on "the Miller Mousetrap", we get the defendant to admit a rule exists. That sets up the scenario where you can prove the defendant said: yes I admit this is a rule. Now all we have to prove is that they broke that rule. Good depositions help you get better settlement value.
The thing we do most in litigation is take depositions. We don’t always try cases. We should always be asking ourselves—how do I want to structure my depositions, what proof do I need to get to maximize the value of my case? A great trial lawyer might try four cases a year, but we may take many depositions for those cases. A lawyer might take two or three depositions a week. One friend of mine takes a deposition every day.
Regardless of whether the case settles or not, as a lawyer you need to learn to do depositions really well.
To learn more on how to obtain your best case outcomes by improving your deposition skills read Advanced Depositions: Strategy and Practice by Phillip Miller and Paul Scoptur.