Trial Counsel for Law Firms

Common Objections

Objections should be made rarely, only as needed to prevent improper evidence and protect the record. Here are some common objections to keep in mind.

Irrelevant – evidence must be relevant or it’s a waste of time.

Hearsay – “so and so told me that…” This is a complicated objection due to the number of exceptions. If the evidence is intended not for the truth of the statement, just that it was made, it will likely be accepted.

Prejudicial – evidence that will prejudice a party without sufficient probative value should be objected to in order to protect the record on appeal.  Prejudice refers to something potentially harmful that risks pre-judging a party.  Probative value is something that explores the issues under consideration.

Browne v. Dunn – if a witness is going to suggest an earlier witness was untruthful, the first witness ought to have been asked some questions on the issue as a matter of fairness. This rule is a consideration for every cross-examination: make sure to ask questions where you anticipate opposite answers from your own witness(es).

Leading – direct examination must use non-leading questions on contentious issues, otherwise it is improper.

During redirect examination – key objections on redirect are that the questions do not relate to new issues raised on cross-examination or the question should clearly have been anticipated and asked on direct examination (possibly resulting in additional cross-examination).

Opinion – opinion evidence can only come from an expert who the Court, Tribunal or arbitrator has agreed is an expert.

Best evidence – evidence should come from the best source. For example, original documents are more important than copies.

Privileged – lawyer-client privilege, litigation privilege and settlement privilege are all areas that are out of bounds.

Assumes fact not in evidence – if there is no factual foundation when a question is asked, it is improper until a factual foundation is established. 

Speculative – hypothetical and “what if” questions have no bearing on what actually happened.

Argumentative – questions that focus on legal argument as opposed to facts should not be asked.

Multiple questions – asking two questions at the same time is bad advocacy because it’s hard to follow the question and answer.

Vague – some questions are worded in a way that they are just too unclear to answer.

Repetitive – asked and answered questions cannot be repeated.

This article is courtesy of the Ontario Civil Trial Manual

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This manual is trial information, not trial legal advice.

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