How to Exclude Self-Serving Reports by Testimonial Experts

So you’re at trial and your opponent wants to offer into evidence their expert’s written report… What do you do?  Is it admissible? The short answer is no. Expert’s reports are documents prepared in anticipation of litigation and do not have the inherent reliability of documents typically considered and admissible under exceptions to the hearsay rule such as Indiana Rules of Evidence 803 and 804.RULE 803.  Indiana Rule of Evidence 803(6) recognizes this danger.  IRE 803(6) states:

Records of a Regularly Conducted Activity. A record of an act, event, condition, opinion, or diagnosis if:

(A) the record was made at or near the time by — or from information transmitted by — someone with knowledge;

(B) the record was kept in the course of a regularly conducted activity of a business, organization, occupation, or calling, whether or not for profit;

(C) making the record was a regular practice of that activity;

(D) all these conditions are shown by the testimony of the custodian or another qualified witness, or by a certification that complies with Rule 902(9) or (10) or with a statute permitting certification; and

(E) neither the source of information nor the method or circumstances of preparation indicate a lack of trustworthiness.

(Emphasis Added).  Clearly, a report by a hired gun hardly provides circumstances indicative trustworthiness.  In Re: Termination of Parent-Chile Relationship of E.T. and B.T., 808 N.E.2d 639 (Ind. 2004), the Indiana Supreme Court observed:

[The] business records exception to the hearsay rule is “based on the fact that the circumstances of preparation assure the accuracy and reliability of the entries.”  Wells, 261 N.E.2d at 870.  As we have observed more recently, the reliability of business records stems in part from the fact that “the organization depends on them to operate, from the sense that they are subject to review, audit, or internal checks, [and] from the precision engendered by the repetition…”  Stahl v. State, 484 N.E.2d 89, 92 (Ind. 1997); see also Advisory Committee’s Note to Fed. R. of Evid. 803(6) (observing that business records are made reliable by “systematic checking, by regularity and continuity which produce habits of precision, by actual experience of business in relying upon them, or by a duty to make an accurate record as part of a continuing job or occupation.”

Id. at 642-43.  The Court went on to explain that if a business does not rely on certain records for the performance of its functions then those records do not fall into the hearsay exception for records of regularly conducted business activity.  (See also Palmer v. Hoffman, 318 U.S. 109, 111 (1943), where the Court upheld the exclusion of a railroad engineer’s statement.  “[I]t is manifest that in this case those reports are not for the systematic conduct of the enterprise as a railroad business.  …[T]hese reports are calculated for use essentially in the court, not in the business. Their primary utility is in litigating not in railroading.“)

A retained expert’s report is not subject to review, audit, or internal checks for use in the expert’s business nor is it relied upon by the expert in the performance of business functions. In Re: Termination of Parent-Chile Relationship of E.T. and B.T., 808 N.E.2d 639 (Ind. 2004). Instead it designed and created for use in litigation. IRE 803(6) requires that the method or circumstances of the preparation not indicate a lack of trustworthiness.

A report is not trustworthy when the Defendant hires an individual to prepare it if the primary motive for preparing the report is for litigation. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London v. Sinkovich, 232 F.3d 200, 205 (4th Cir. 2000). “Litigants cannot evade the trustworthy requirement of Rule 803(6) by simply hiring an outside party to investigate an accident and then arguing that the report is a business record because the investigator regularly prepares such reports as part of his business.” Id.   See also, Echo Acceptance Corp. v. Household Retail Services, Inc., 267 F.3d 1068, 1090-91 (10th Cir. 2001); Lust v. Sealy, Inc., 383 F.3d 580, 588 (7th Cir. 2004).

These sentiments are echoed in Judge Robert Miller’s Courtroom Handbook on Indiana Evidence, in reference to Rule 803(6) he notes:

“Documents made in anticipation of litigation, including computer printouts are generally not admissible under Rule 803(6).” Certain Underwriters at Lloyds , London v. Sincovich, 232 F.3d 200, 205 (4th Cir. 2000); Bradley v. Phelps, 147 Ind. App. 349, 260 894, 898 (1970), cf. Baker v. Wagers, 472 N.E.2d 218, 222 (Ind. App. 1984).

So do not let your opponent get away with creating testimonial exhibits which will be taken back to the jury room and provide unfair emphasis on such testimony.  Reports simply aren’t admissible.

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About Richard A. Cook

Richard Cook graduated from Purdue University in the Economics Honor Program in 1979 and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Valparaiso University School of Law in 1982. Following law school, Richard served as a federal law clerk in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. In 1984, Richard began working as Deputy Prosecutor for the Lake County Prosecutor's Office and from there, served as Assistant U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. There he handled a number of complex criminal matters and jury trials. While there, Richard received the Chief Postal Inspector's Special Award and a letter of commendation from the U.S. Attorney General for his work prosecuting a major money order fraud scheme being perpetrated out of the Indiana State Prison system. Since leaving the U.S. Attorney's office in 1989, Richard has focused primarily on civil work and is currently a member of the firm Yosha Cook & Tisch in Indianapolis. Richard is also a member of the ITLA, IBA and the ABA, as well as, a fellow for the American College of Trial Lawyers. He is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell.

Posted on November 5, 2015, in Evidence, exclusion of witnesses, experts and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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