Rule of Completeness so Entire Writing or Statement is Contemporaneously Introduced

Posted by David Adelstein on August 06, 2015
Evidence

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Florida Statute s. 90.108(1) provides:

When a writing or recorded statement or part thereof is introduced by a party, an adverse party may require him or her at that time to introduce any other part or any other writing or recorded statement that in fairness ought to be considered contemporaneously. An adverse party is not bound by evidence introduced under this section.”

This is referred to as the rule of completeness. The objective behind this rule of completeness is to avoid misleading the jury with a statement that is based on incomplete information. See Harden v. State, 87 So.3d 1243,1249 (Fla. 4th DCA 2012) (“The purpose of the rule [of completeness] is to avoid the potential for creating misleading impressions by taking statements out of context.”). See, e.g., Robinson v. C.S.X. Transp., Inc., 103 So.3d 1006, 1009 (Fla. 5th DCA 2012) (finding that once party introduced redacted report, this opened the door for opposing party to introduce the redacted portion of report).

The rule of completeness does NOT warrant the exclusion of evidence; it just means a party can request that fairness dictates the complete statement be introduced, even if that complete statement includes hearsay statements. See Harden, supra. “The proper standard for determining the admissibility of testimony under the rule [of completeness] is whether, in the interest of fairness, the remaining portions of the statements should have been contemporaneously provided to the jury. This determination of fairness falls within the discretion of the trial judge.” See Whitfield v. State, 933 So.2d 1245, 1248 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006) (internal citations and quotations omitted).

Think e-mails, and particularly, an e-mail chain when it comes to the rule of completeness. Sometimes, but certainly not all of the time, fairness may dictate that the entire e-mail chain be contemporaneously introduced to avoid taking a statement in an e-mail out of context. In this context, a party may request under Florida Statute s. 90.108 that the rule of completeness applies so that the entire e-mail chain is contemporaneously introduced.

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

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