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Excited Utterance Hearsay Exception

I have discussed that hearsay is inadmissible evidence. Again, hearsay “is a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.” Fla.Stat. 90.801(1)(c). While hearsay is inadmissible, there are exceptions that allow hearsay to be admissible at trial. One hearsay exception is known as an “excited utterance.” Typically, this hearsay exception is more applicable in criminal trials than civil trials. An excited utterance is a “statement or excited utterance relating to a startling event or condition made while the declarant was under the stress of...

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Experts Cannot Tell the Jury How to Decide the Case

Previously, I discussed the employment litigation case of Mootry v. Bethune-Cookman University, Inc., 41 Fla. L. Weekly D146a (Fla. 5th DCA 2015) involving a terminated professor suing the University that fired him.   Check it out here. In this case, the University called an outside counsel as an expert employment attorney that advised it in the termination of the professor. The lawyer testified that in her expert opinion the University had cause to terminate the professor. The appellate court held it was error to admit this testimony because the testimony was essentially telling the jury how to decide the case, particularly,...

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Hearsay can Only be Admitted for Another Purpose if Such Purpose is a Material Issue

Sometimes, a party will try to introduce hearsay by arguing that that the document/testimony is not being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted (hearsay), but instead, is being offered for another purpose. This is an avenue to admit evidence that would otherwise be excluded under the hearsay exclusion.  This was the situation in the employment litigation case, Mootry v. Bethune-Cookman University, Inc., 41 Fla. L. Weekly D146a (Fla. 5th DCA 2015). In this case, the University terminated a tenured professor for cause and the professor sued. At trial, the University offered into evidence a report prepared by an...

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Summary Judgment Must be Based on Admissible Evidence

  A party moving for summary judgment must rely on admissible evidence in the record. Arlen Realty, Inc. v. Penn Mut. Life Ins. Co., 386 So.2d 886 (Fla. 1st DCA 1980). Parties oftentimes submit an affidavit in support of a motion for summary judgment in order to get certain testimony or documentary evidence into the record. When a party submits an affidavit to get a document into the record, the party still needs to authenticate the document and lay its foundation in the affidavit. See Alavi v. Garcia, 140 So.3d 1141 (Fla. 5th DCA 2014) (party required to lay foundation for...

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How the Defense of Set-Off Applies

Set-off is a popular topic or defense raised in civil disputes. In contract actions, set-off must be raised as an affirmative defense and proven at trial (and determined by the trier of fact) or else the defendant waives the right to assert set-off. See Felgenhauer v. Bonds, 891 So.2d 1043, 1045 (Fla. 2d DCA 2004). What about tort actions such as negligence actions in disputes involving personal injury or property damage? For instance, say a plaintiff sues three defendants in negligence for the same damage. Prior to trial, the plaintiff settled with two of the defendants for a total of $100,000 and...

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Witness Laying the Foundation for the Admission of Business Records

More on the business records exception to the hearsay rule and the importance of laying the proper foundation to introduce business records under this exception. This is a must-know hearsay exception to any business-related dispute; and, it is imperative to understand the required testimony of the witness utilized to lay the foundation for the business records exception. In Sanchez v. Suntrust Bank, 4D14-2457 (Fla. 4th DCA 2015) – yes, a mortgage foreclosure case—the lender introduced a screenshot of its record keeping system, the payment history with the borrower, default letters, and a payoff calculation. The lender introduced this documentation through the...

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Inadmissible Testimony / Evidence Should Not be Considered on a Summary Judgment

  Speculative and inadmissible testimony should not be considered on a summary judgment. This point is illustrated in the wrongful death case of Panzera v. O’Neal, 40 Fla. L. Weekly D2661a (Fla. 2d DCA 2015).  In this case, the undisputed evidence was that the decedent, wearing a dark colored shirt, was killed trying to cross an interstate at 3am.   He was killed by a semi tractor-trailer driving under the speed limit that tried to avoid the accident. The Florida Highway Patrol responded to the accident and reported that the decedent caused the accident and the driver of the semi could have...

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Parol Evidence Rule — A Substantive Rule of Law

The parol evidence rule is not an evidentiary rule, but a substantive rule of law. Madsen, Sapp, Mena, Rodriguez & Co., P.A. v. Palm Beach Holdings, Inc., 899 So.2d 435, 436 (Fla. 4th DCA 2005). It is an important substantive rule of law when it comes to cases that involve the rights, liabilities, and remedies of parties pursuant to a written agreement. The parol evidence rule precludes the admissibility of extrinsic “verbal agreements [evidence] between the parties to a written contract which are made before or at the time of execution of the contract.” Pavolini v. Williams, 915 So.2d 251, 254...

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Best Evidence Rule

Florida Statutes s. 90.952, 90.953 and 90.954 codify what is called the “best evidence rule.” “The best evidence rule requires that if original evidence is available, then no evidence should be received which is merely substitutionary in nature….The best evidence rule is applicable only to exclude evidence where the contents of a writing is at issue.” State v. Eubanks, 609 Do.2d 107, 109 (Fla. 4th DCA 1992); These statutes provide: 90.952 Except as otherwise provided by statute, an original writing, recording, or photograph is required in order to prove the contents of the writing, recording, or photograph. 90.953 A duplicate is admissible to the same extent...

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The Certiorari Standard of Review

I previously talked about petitions for writs of certiorari and the certiorari standard of review. A recent Florida Fourth District Court of Appeals explained: “Certiorari review is appropriate when an order [from the trial court] departs from the essential requirements of law, causing material injury throughout the remainder of proceedings below and effectively leaving no adequate remedy on post-judgment appeal.” Robinson v. Florida Peninsula Insurance Co., 40 Fla.L.Weekly D2547b (Fla. 4th DCA 2015). In this matter, a homeowner filed a lawsuit against his homeowner’s insurance carrier. The insurer moved to abate the lawsuit for purposes of compelling the homeowner to allow...

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