EvidenceProf Blog

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

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Hearsay in the Keystone State: Pennsylvania Case Reveals the State Lacks Many Hearsay Exceptions

Federal Rule of Evidence 803(8) provides an exception to the rule against hearsay for

A record or statement of a public office if:  

(A) it sets out:  

(i) the office’s activities;  

(ii) a matter observed while under a legal duty to report, but not including, in a criminal case, a matter observed by law-enforcement personnel; or  

(iii) in a civil case or against the government in a criminal case, factual findings from a legally authorized investigation; and  

(B) neither the source of information nor other circumstances indicate a lack of trustworthiness.

As the recent opinion of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania in Phillips v. Lock, 2014 WL 806225 (Pa.Super. 2014), makes clear, Pennsylvania never adopted a state counterpart to Rule 803(8). So, where does that leave the Keystone State?

Lock was a case involving a civil lawsuit after an automobile accident. After the trial court found against the appellants, they appealed, claiming, inter alia, that the court erred by precluding them from admitting into evidence a police report regarding the accident.

In response, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania noted that Pennsylvania has never adopted Federal Rule of Evidence 803(8). Therefore, the court confined its analysis to Section 3751(b)(4) of the Vehicle Code, which states that a police report "shall not be admissible as evidence in any action for damages...arising out of a motor vehicle accident." Moreover, the court relied on Pennsylvania case law, which has found that "[a] police report prepared by an officer who is not a witness to the accident is inadmissible hearsay evidence and should not be admitted into evidence. Nor should a party be able to get such a report into evidence in an indirect manner."

Interesting. After some further research, it turns out that Pennsylvania also has never adopted the hearsay exceptions contained in Federal Rules of Evidence 803(5), 803(7), (9), (10), (18), (22), 24), and 807 (see here)



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