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Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Be An Original: 5th Circuit Finds Computer Printout Of Insurance Policy Was An "Original" Under Rule 1001(3)

Federal Rule of Evidence 1002, the Best Evidence Rule, provides that

To prove the content of a writing, recording, or photograph, the original writing, recording, or photograph is required, except as otherwise provided in these rules or by Act of Congress.

That said, Federal Rule of Evidence 1001(3) provides that

An "original" of a writing or recording is the writing or recording itself or any counterpart intended to have the same effect by a person executing or issuing it. An "original" of a photograph includes the negative or any print therefrom. If data are stored in a computer or similar device, any printout or other output readable by sight, shown to reflect the data accurately, is an "original".

It was this last sentence of Rule 1001(3) that proved fatal to the defendants' Best Evidence Rule appeal in Time Ins. Co. v. Estate of White, 2011 WL 5105790 (5th Cir. 2011).

In Estate of White,

Defendants–Appellants, Patsy White and the estate of her deceased husband, Larrye J. White, appealed] the district court's grant of summary judgment and entry of declaratory judgment in favor of Plaintiff–Appellee, Time Insurance Co...., with respect to its obligations under a health insurance policy. 

In reaching its conclusion, the district court relied upon evidence produced by Time Insurance Company. Specifically, Time Insurance Company produced a computer printout of a policy numbered 0058461251, which was the insurance policy allegedly issued to Larrye J. White

After the entry of declaratory judgment against them, the defendants appealed, claiming that the computer printout violated the Best Evidence Rule. The Fifth Circuit disagreed, concluding that

"To prove the content of a writing,...the original writing...is required...." Fed.R.Evid. 1002. "If data are stored in a computer or similar device, any printout or other output readable by sight, shown to reflect the data accurately, is an 'original.'" Fed.R.Evid. 1001(3). Time provided ample evidence that its copy of the insurance policy, and the faxed application, riders, and acceptance of offer form, all signed by the Whites, were maintained by its computers in the regular course of business and are inalterable. Accordingly, the documents produced by Time are originals, and are admissible to prove their contents.

-CM

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2011/10/10013-time-ins-co-v-estate-of-whiteslip-copy-2011-wl-5105790ca5-miss2011.html

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