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 testimony of a loan servicer.
In introducing this documentation, however, the proper foundation for these business records was not laid.
To introduce documents under the business records exception, the introducing party must show through a witness:
(1) the record was made at or near the time of the event; (2) was made by or from information transmitted by a person with knowledge; (3) was kept in the ordinary course of a regularly conducted business activity; and (4) that it was a regular practice of that business to make such a record.
Sanchez, supra (citation omitted).
In this case, the witness was never asked whether the documents were made at or near the time of the event. And, as it related to the screenshot of the record keeping system, the witness did not know how the screenshot was created.
When it comes to the witness laying the foundation for the business records exception, the Fourth District explained:
To lay a foundation for the admission of a business record, it is not necessary for the proponent of the evidence to call the person who actually prepared the business records. The records custodian or any qualified witness who has the necessary knowledge to testify as to how the record was made can lay the necessary foundation. Stated another way, the witness just need be well enough acquainted with the activity to provide testimony. To the extent the individual making the record does not have personal knowledge of the information contained therein, the second prong of the predicate requires the information to have been supplied by an individual who does have personal knowledge of the information and who was acting in the course of a regularly conducted business activity.
Sanchez, supra (internal quotations and citations omitted).
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