Impeachment of Witnesses in Civil Litigation: Strategies for Discrediting Adverse Witnesses

Using Depositions, Testimony and Correspondence to Impeach With Prior Inconsistent Statements, Contradictory Facts and More

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

This CLE course will prepare counsel to strategically and effectively impeach witnesses in civil litigation. The panel will discuss how to use prior inconsistent statements, contradictory facts and evidence of bias to impeach the credibility of adverse witnesses; when to impeach your own witness; and special considerations for impeaching scientific and expert witnesses.


Success in high stakes civil litigation frequently hinges on the credibility of key witnesses testifying at trial. Cross-examination offers litigators an opportunity to undermine the credibility of adverse witnesses by impeaching their testimony using prior inconsistent statements, evidence of bias or contradictory facts. Effectively impeaching a witness makes a lasting impression on the jury. Impeachment can also help attorneys undo the damage caused by unexpected testimony from their own witnesses.

To impeach the credibility of adverse witnesses, counsel must move past the “three C’s” of impeachment—commit the witness to the direct testimony, confront the witness with the inconsistent statement, and complete the impeachment. Successful impeachment requires a thorough understanding of the substantive and procedural rules governing witness impeachment. Litigators must be thoroughly familiar with the depositions and other documentary evidence in a case to identify vulnerabilities and inconsistencies in testimony and prepare to act on them during cross-examination.

Listen as our experienced panel of litigators outlines effective strategies for impeaching witnesses during civil litigation. The panel will share techniques from their own experiences that have proven successful in impeaching witnesses, discuss special considerations for impeaching your own witness and impeaching expert witnesses, and help counsel avoid pitfalls such as impeaching testimony on relatively minor issues or inconsistencies.



  1. Preparing the foundation for impeachment
  2. Tools for impeachment
    1. Depositions
    2. Trial testimony
    3. Correspondence
    4. Treatises, published works
    5. Social Media
  3. Methods of impeaching witnesses in civil litigation
    1. Prior inconsistent statements
    2. Bias/interest
    3. Contradictory facts
  4. Impeaching expert witnesses
  5. When to impeach your own witness
  6. Avoiding impeachment pitfalls
  7. Rehabilitating witnesses after impeachment


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What impeachment techniques can help create drama in the courtroom?
  • What are some common pitfalls to avoid when impeaching testimony?
  • When should counsel risk impeaching their own witnesses’ testimony?
  • How can counsel rehabilitate a witness that has been discredited through impeachment?


Costello, Sean
Sean P. Costello, Esq.

Law Office of Sean P. Costello

Mr. Costello has litigated product liability cases, represented individuals in SEC and other government...  |  Read More

John Zen Jackson
John Zen Jackson

McElroy Deutsch Mulvaney & Carpenter

Mr. Jackson handles a variety of commercial litigation issues as well as the defense of qui tam actions under the...  |  Read More

Claire Rush
Claire Rush

Rush & Sabbatino

Ms. Rush is a trial attorney who specializes in the defense of high exposure personal injury actions. She...  |  Read More

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