Previously, I discussed the business records exception to the hearsay rule (of inadmissible evidence).
Another exception to the hearsay rule deals with admissions against party opponents. This is an important exception to the hearsay rule that will apply in civil disputes so that a witness can testify about a statement made by a representative / employee of an opposing party without this statement being deemed inadmissible hearsay.
This hearsay exception in Florida Statute s. 90.803(18) states that the following statements (admissions) are admissible:
(18) Admissions.–A statement that is offered against a party and is:
(a) The party’s own statement in either an individual or a representative capacity;
(b) A statement of which the party has manifested an adoption or belief in its truth;
(c) A statement by a person specifically authorized by the party to make a statement concerning the subject;
(d) A statement by the party’s agent or servant concerning a matter within the scope of the agency or employment thereof, made during the existence of the relationship; or
(e) A statement by a person who was a coconspirator of the party during the course, and in furtherance, of the conspiracy. Upon request of counsel, the court shall instruct the jury that the conspiracy itself and each member’s participation in it must be established by independent evidence, either before the introduction of any evidence or before evidence is admitted under this paragraph.
Businesses operate through people so it is common for a representative of a business or a person acting within the scope of their employment to say something to another person. This happens all the time. But, is this statement admissible against the person’s business in a business dispute? The answer is yes under this hearsay exception.
For example, in Benjamin v. Tandem Healthcare, Inc., 93 So.3d 1076 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012), an estate filed suit against a nursing home for wrongful death when a resident died by choking on her food. The nursing home argued, among other things, that the resident had not choked. During trial, the estate offered the testimony of a person that heard the kitchen manager of the nursing home state that the resident choked on coleslaw even though the kitchen manager had not seen the incident. This was admissible hearsay because the statement of the kitchen manager was an admission offered against a party (the nursing home). The kitchen manager made the statement concerning a matter within the scope of his employment. And, such a statement is admissible even if the statement is not based on personal knowledge, as was the statement made by the kitchen manager that did not observe the resident choking.
In Scholz v. RDV Sports, Inc., 710 So.2d 618 (Fla. 5th DCA 1998), a former assistant coach filed a lawsuit against the team for wrongful termination. The former assistant testified that he was told by an employee of the team that he was fired because the team wanted to hire a black assistant and that the team had been pressured to hire a black assistant. The statements made by the team’s employee were admissible hearsay because the statements were made by a person concerning a matter within the scope of their employment and, thus, were admissions offered against a party (the team).
In Troya v. Miami Beach Health Care Group, Inc., 780 So.2d 228 (Fla. 3d DCA 2001), a woman was injured when she slipped and fell at a hospital. As soon as she fell, she overheard an unidentified hospital employee say there was too much wax on the floor. This statement was admissible hearsay as an admission against a party opponent.
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