Here are several versions of roughly the same questions asked at (or toward the end) of may depositions.

“Have you understood the questions I have asked you?”

“Have you understood each of the questions you have answered?”

“You have understood all the questions I have asked, where you didn’t raise questions have you not?”

And there are other forms.

Most witnesses answer by saying, “Yes.”

This is always a mistake, although quite often it is a harmless one.

The reason this is a mistake is because people often do not understand sentences asserted before them, including questions, although they think they understand them.

The truthful answer and the safe one is “I don’t know.”

If the depositioner goes further and asks “Why not? or “Which one(s) did you or do you not understand ?”

The correct answer is this, “There are things I believe where I turn out to be wrong.” Or, “Sometimes I think I know something when I do not. This applies to understanding language.” Both of these propositions are true.

If the depositioner asks, “Well, do you understand the question I am asking now?” The correct and safe answer is the same, “I don’t know.”

If the depositioner then asks, “Do you think you do?” An accurate answer might be, “I’m not sure, of course, but maybe.”

If the depositioner keeps going down this path, the witness should resist. Either the depositioner is trying to trap the witness or s/he is on an undignified power trip. Repeating an answer of the form already given is usually OK.

Michael Sean Quinn, PhD, JD, CPCU, Etc

Michael Sean Quinn, PhD, JD, CPCU, Etc. (530)

One of Texas's leading insurance scholars, Michael Sean Quinn is a past chair of the Insurance Section of the State Bar of Texas and has a broad legal practice.

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