A subpoena is a command for the person receiving this document to appear in Court or at a deposition, either to give testimony or to bring documents. A failure to comply with the subpoena can result in a financial penalty to the person subpoenaed, or in extremely rare instances, to a short jail stint for contempt. A subpoena “duces tecum” is a Latin term meaning that the recipient must bring documents to Court, or to a deposition in a lawyer’s office. A personal subpoena is a command to appear in Court or a deposition to give sworn testimony. In New York, a frequent use of a subpoena is to command the “non-party deposition” of a witness to an accident.
Our office recently used a non-party subpoena in a Brooklyn slip and fall case, to obtain the testimony of a passerby who observed our client fall, and also noted that landlord had failed to apply salt or sand to the patch of ice where the accident occurred. If a witness is reluctant to become involved in a case, there is often no other alternative to ensure that this person appears in Court other than a subpoena. Years ago, we were involved in a Bronx construction accident in which our client had fallen from a ladder and suffered very serious injuries. A co-worker was aware that he ladder was in very poor condition, but refused to appear in Court voluntarily. Therefore, in order to get this vital testimony before a jury, we were forced to subpoena this witness to Court.
As for the subpoena duces tecum, this is often used to compel medical providers such as hospitals, physicians, physical therapists, or chiropractors to provide their records of treatment of plaintiffs in New York slip and fall accidents, car accident cases, New York medical malpractice cases, defective product cases, or New York trucking accidents, to name a few.