A not-so-social deposition
The movie “The Social Network,” is about the formation of Facebook. A lot of the narrative of the movie is told in flashbacks framed by the various depositions in the lawsuits between the parties who allegedly had role in the creation of the social media site. In this scene, Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook,(played by actor Jesse Eisenberg) answers some questions in a deposition by the attorney for the Winklevoss twins who filed a lawsuit alleging that Mr. Zuckerberg stole their idea and created Facebook. Despite this being an entertaining clip and it seems that Mr. Zuckerberg won this exchange, if this is how the transcript played out in reality, he did nothing but hurt his case.
One of the mistakes that people make in depositions is trying to argue with the other attorney. This happens especially with experts and professionals because they think they are smarter than the attorney asking the questions. In a lot of cases they are even correct (and it would not be a stretch to say Mr. Zuckerberg was smarter than the opposing lawyers). But by verbally sparring with the other attorney, you are doing more than just answering the question. You are providing the other attorney free information about your case. You are giving your opponent cross-examination material to use on the stand against you. Mr. Zuckerberg’s comments in this deposition can be read to a jury and introduced into evidence. In fact, this appeared to be a video depositionA good attorney could build an entire closing argument around these comments. “Thank you ladies and gentlemen of the jury for your attention to the facts in this case. That is all my clients, the Winklevoss twins asked of you and you have delivered. If only the Defendant had given them his attention, as he agreed to do. But he did not, and even in a lawsuit did not. The only person that the Defendant thought deserved attention was himself. Does he even think you deserve his attention…”
Save the clever arguments for your lawyer and cocktail parties. Just listen to the question; answer the question; and let your lawyer object if it is irrelevant.
–Bradley A. Coxe is a practicing attorney in Wilmington, NC with Hodges & Coxe PC who specializes in Personal Injury, Medical Malpractice, Homeowner's Associations, Contract and Real Estate disputes and all forms of Civil Litigation. Please contact him at (910) 772-1678.