Depositions are an enormously useful and important resource and typically the most effective way for parties to obtain information necessary for trial. Illinois rules provide for two types of depositions: discovery depositions and evidence depositions. See Ill. So. Ct. R. 202. Illinois is unique in that it is the only state that recognizes two different types of depositions. Understanding the distinction between the two is important in litigating a case and preserving the ability to introduce certain evidence at trial. While both are designed to elicit relevant evidence, the scope of what is relevant, and ultimately what is proper to ask, differs between the two types of depositions.
Discovery depositions are used for the purpose of exploring the facts that are not only relevant to the case, but also will lead to the discovery of additional evidence. In this regard, the scope and manner of questioning in discovery depositions is given great latitude. Conversely, evidence depositions are used for the purpose of preserving evidence for trial. The questioning in an evidence deposition is limited by the rules of evidence. As a result, the scope of inquiry in a discovery deposition is broader than the questioning allowed in an evidence deposition. In practical terms, the initial deposition of a witness normally will be a discovery deposition given the wider scope of inquiry afforded. Discovery depositions are usually less formal than their counterpart. Counsel participating in an evidence deposition should treat it as if he or she were at trial.
A party electing to conduct a deposition must specify in the notice or subpoena served on the witness whether the deposition will be a discovery deposition or evidence deposition. Absent a specification, the deposition will proceed for discovery purposes only. Because the type of deposition dictates the scope of questioning and what will ultimately be admissible at trial, it is important that parties understand the significance in specifying the type of deposition he or she intends to take.