EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Sunday, October 9, 2011

That's Ancient History: Court Of Appeals Of Kentucky Finds Old Newspaper Articles Admissible As Ancient Documents

Like its federal counterpart, Kentucky Rule of Evidence 803(16) provides an exception to the rule against hearsay for 

Statements in a document in existence twenty (20) years or more the authenticity of which is established.

And, as the recent opinion of the Court of Appeals of Kentucky in Rehm v. Ford Motor Co., 2011 WL 4632924 (Ky.App. 2011), makes clear, if you are seeking to admit newspaper articles that are 20 years old or older, Rule 803(16) is your go-to rule.

In Rehm, James Rehm was an employee of Rapid Installations, which performed work at Ford Motor Company's Louisville Assembly Plant (LAP). After Rehm was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma, his wife, children, and he brought an action against several defendants, including Ford. According to the plaintiffs, James Rehm contracted his disease while performing changeover work at LAP after June 1981. In response, Ford introduced

two newspaper articles that reported that the last [Ford] LTD manufactured in Louisville rolled off the line in June of 1981. Therefore, Ford contended that James could not have been involved in the changeover work that occurred after June 1981.

After the court found for Ford, the plaintiffs appealed, claiming, inter alia, that the court erred in allowing Ford to admit the two newspaper articles. The Court of Appeals of Kentucky disagreed, finding that the articles were admissible under Rule 803(16) as ancient documents because they were more than 20 years old. Moreover, the court concluded that the articles were self-authenticating under Kentucky Rule of Evidence 902(4) (alternatively, the court court have found that the articles met the requirements for the authentication of ancient documents under Kentucky Rule of Evidence 901(b)(8)).



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