What to do if my previous employer is requiring a deposition in wrongful death suit?

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What to do if my previous employer is requiring a deposition in wrongful death suit?

I worked as an assistant manager manager on duty at time of incident for a large school/residential program serving children with autism and various developmental disabilities. During a shift many years ago, all the children in the house I managed had the flu and one child died. I did everything in my power to save him, even telling the nurse she was wrong and hanging up on her, dialing 911. I ran the show and wrote all the reports. The company is being sued for wrongful death. I am being made to give deposition. It’s been hanging over my head and really causing a bit of emotional turmoil and really something I’d rather not revisit and deal with. I am very uncomfortable. The law firm representing the school has offered to represent me. I do not trust it at all. What are my rights? A date has been set for deposition, I’ve been relatively cooperative but feel pretty upset about the whole thing and like I have no rights. I had asked what would happen if I felt as though I didn’t want to do this, they said Id be held in contempt of court. This is very not fair because there is an upset parent out there I need to be dragged out of my every day life? Waste days of my time? Lose out on wages for myself and husband. It all seems pretty unfair. What benefit is any of this to me? I get thrown in jail and fined if I refuse? What are my rights?

Asked on June 4, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

If you did not receive a subpoena but were merely asked to testify, you do not have to--a person may ignore a non-subpoea request.
But if subpoenaed, you have to testify: a subpoena is treated as court order, and if you violate it, you can be held in contempt of court and punished (fined; potentially jailed in egregious cases). It doesn't matter that you have very good reasons for not doing this: the legal system could not function if people could not be compelled to testify or provide evidence/depositions, since no one wants to do this or would do it voluntarily--hence, the court system has the power (subpoenas) to compel court testimony, depositions, etc. And no, there is no benefit to you, but there is benefit to society by having a legal system that can function.
If you are far away from the location where they want to take the deposition and/or are in ill health, so any travel is a burden, you may be able to make them come to you or take your deposition by video hook-up, but that's about the extent of your rights.


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