Over the years we’ve received a fair amount of questions regarding errata sheets. Usually, these questions tend to come from paralegals or legal secretaries that are involved in the ‘read and review’ process.
For anyone who has ever had questions about them, errata sheets give you and your client or witness the opportunity to identify and correct any mistakes that may exist in the transcript. The bottom line is that although court reporters are highly trained professionals, the reality is that as humans we sometimes make mistakes. The same can be said of the client or supporting witnesses.
However, since depositions make up a substantial portion of evidence at trial, it is important to make sure that the deposition transcript reflects an accurate account of the deponent. Here’s what you should know about managing the errata sheet process.
There is much work to be done when preparing your client, witness or case for depositions. After the deposition has taken place the read and review process begins. This gives you and your client or witness the opportunity to correct any errors that might have been made during the actual deposition. The corrections are recorded in the errata sheet.
Often during ‘read and review’, clients and witnesses feel it necessary to correct or add to what was said. However, it is important that they understand the review process is not about changing the substance of the deposition but ensuring accuracy. So how you manage the process of preparing and filing the deposition errata sheet matters; both for the client or witness, as well as for the potential success of the case.
Errata Sheet – Acceptable Corrections
A client may be tempted to suggest changes that are more favorable or to elaborate on a given answer to avoid ambiguity. However, the errata sheet process is not a ‘do over’ or a chance to change one’s testimony. Rather, the intention is to identify errors or misstatements that took place during the deposition. All changes are recorded, while both the original and corrected answer become part of the record. The corrections must therefore represent a genuine mistake of accuracy and ambiguity.
What Clients and Witnesses Should Know
You will want your client or witness to at least a basic level of familiarity with the read and review process. Indeed, making them aware of this process can significantly improve the ease of preparation and filing of the errata sheets:
- The read and review process is time sensitive. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure affords the deponent thirty (30) days, starting from the delivery date of the transcript, to submit changes. A failure to submit these changes within the given timeline means that the deposition will be accepted ‘as is’ – without corrections.
- The deposition can only be corrected for inaccuracies. It must be clear to the client that the changes made do not erase the first record and both jury and judge will be privy to both answers. Your client should therefore understand that contradictory statements could generally have a negative effect on their case and he or she may face prosecution for perjury where no good reason is advanced for the contradiction.
The Responsibility of Paralegals and Legal Secretaries in the Read and Review Process
As the hired legal professional, whether you are a paralegal or legal secretary, you play a critical role in the preparation and filing of the errata sheets. And although it is important for the client to be part of the read and review process, it is the lawyer, paralegal and other support staff that will be combing through the deposition to identify the errors. While the process may be tedious, it is a necessary and important process.
Once the errors have been identified, it is your responsibility to record such errors on the errata sheet. If the error involves a change in the previously recorded answer, you must give a detailed explanation as to the change.
The handling of deposition errata sheets must be viewed as a critical process that has the potential to impact the outcome of any civil case. So although it’s in your client’s or witness’ best interest to ensure the accuracy of deposition statements, ultimately the responsibility for dotting all ‘I’s’ and crossing all ‘Ts’ — will fall upon you — the legal professional. This is all the more reason to pay attention to detail when dealing with errata sheets.