What is Hearsay?

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Q: Iron bars came loose at an amusement park, while I was bending over to board a ride.  They fell upon my head, back and shoulder.  With the help of my husband, I walked away to the first aid station.  We stopped two employees and told them what had happened.  They went off to take a look.

A few minutes later, the two came over to the station.  One of them reported that a screw had broken.  The other said, “We tried to fix it yesterday, but that darn thing must have broken again.”  I say this proves the park was at fault.  My friend says it doesn’t matter what the employees said.

A: Bring these employees to the trial.  Give the jury a chance to decide for itself why they said what they said.  Generally, you are not permitted merely to quote their statements.  After all, perhaps the employees merely had a grudge against the park.  Our legal system is very very careful when it comes to hearsay.

One might ask whether each statement is a ‘spontaneous declaration’ – admissible as an exception to the hearsay rule.  However, the speaker of a spontaneous declaration must be under the stress of excitement.  This might be the case, for example, if an employee had seen your accident and shrieked out right away.  In your case, too much time had passed.

Even if these employees have vanished, all is not lost.  Your attorney can probably get equivalent evidence a better way: he or she can obtain the maintenance records, depose the management of the park and hire an expert to inspect the scene.  If need be, the attorney can even manage to locate and subpoena these employees.  Either way, you deserve to win, and the loss of a bit of hearsay is not likely to stop you.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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