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Three Tips for Deposing Your First Adverse Expert Witness

Andrew Tharp

Three Tips for Deposing Your First Adverse Expert Witness
Chris Ryan via Getty Images

I like to cook, but whenever I research a recipe online, I quickly become frustrated as most begin with an explanation about the history of whatever food I am preparing to cook and why it is so fantastic. “Baby back ribs are always a crowd favorite. The concept of smoking ribs low and slow all began back in . . . blah, blah, blah.” Just get to the recipe! So, without delay, here are my top three tips for deposing an adverse expert witness for your first time:

  1. Talk the Talk—The quickest way to help an expert understand that you know what you are talking about is to correctly pronounce relevant technical terms. If you are deposing an epidemiologist about “toxic epidermal necrolysis,” and the closest you ever come to saying those words is “skin condition,” the expert will think you are out of your league and unable to speak in an educated manner about the subject at hand. Conduct internet research, consult with your expert, or ask your colleagues—however you do it, learn to correctly pronounce the relevant complex terminology.
  2. Better to Have and Not Need Than Need and Not Have—During the deposition, you will undoubtedly be prepared with the materials in hand that you intend to cover, but what about the study, article, or government safety announcement that the expert references in response to one of your questions? Anticipate what may arise, even if you do not intend to address it during your examination and have related materials handy. That way, if an expert references a document, you can provide it during the deposition and have a meaningful conversation, rather than simply take the expert’s word that it is supportive of her testimony. The expert’s reliance list is an excellent starting point to make sure you have what you need.
  3. It is Okay to Be a Little Indignant—Early in my career, I was too deferential to experts. I would often push back on some or all of their opinions, but then I would ultimately agree to disagree. I later became comfortable with being respectfully indignant. Politely express your disagreement by zealously challenging the expert’s bases for opinions until all stones are overturned or the expert concedes. Do not feel the need to be deferential. After all, you have prepared in a way that makes you an expert in the deposition as well. You can talk the talk, you have what you need, and you are qualified to challenge opinions, even if you have not been provided with the long history of how expert depositions all began and why they are so fantastic.