EvidenceProf Blog

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

Saturday, November 28, 2020

District of New Jersey Questions Whether Kelley Blue Book Evidence is Admissible

Federal Rule of Evidence 803(17) provides an exception to the rule against hearsay for 

Market quotations, lists, directories, or other compilations that are generally relied on by the public or by persons in particular occupations.

Generally, it is well established that evidence from the Kelley Blue Book is admissible under Rule 803(17) to establish the value of vehicles. But it's unclear if that will be the case in Herrera v. Murphy, 2020 WL 6787259 (D.N.J. 2020).

In Herrera, the plaintiff claimed that as a result of a motor vehicle accident, his 2004 Ford Explorer sustained $21,431.69 in damage. The plaintiff then asked the court to take judicial notice of the Kelley Blue Book valuation of his vehicle. The defendant, however, argued

that Plaintiff's request that the Court take judicial notice of the Explorer's market value according to the Kelley Blue Book should not be countenanced as such a valuation would constitute inadmissible hearsay evidence. In response, Plaintiff maintain[ed] that the Kelley Blue Book valuation is admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 803(17), the hearsay rule exception for market reports and similar commercial publications. Rule 803(17) provides that “[m]arket quotations, lists, directories, or other compilations that are generally relied on by the public or by persons in particular occupations” are not excluded by the rule against hearsay....
The court then ruled that,
In light of the foregoing, Defendant's motion will be denied without prejudice. The Court finds that, if Plaintiff can establish the predicate to admit evidence under Rule 803(17), he may present at trial the Kelley Blue Book valuation as evidence of the Explorer's market value. In other words, the Court will not categorically bar such evidence, but Plaintiff cannot introduce it unless he demonstrates that the Kelley Blue Book is generally relied on by persons in the vehicle appraisal trade.

Thus, the court treated the admissibility of Kelley Blue Book evidence as an open question, with the plaintiff needing to establish that experts in the field rely upon it. But, in other jurisdictions, this isn't really an open question. In State v. Erickstad, 620 N.W.2d 136 (N.D. 2000), the Supreme Court of North Dakota observed that

Numerous cases from other jurisdictions, interpreting rules identical or similar to N.D.R.Ev. 803(17), have held that recognized used car price guides fit within this exception to the hearsay rule. See, e.g., United States v. Johnson, 515 F.2d 730, 732 n. 4 (7th Cir.1975); In re Roberts, 210 B.R. 325, 330 (Bankr.N.D.Iowa 1997); In re Byington, 197 B.R. 130, 138 (Bankr.D.Kan.1996); O'Brien v. Rush, 744 P.2d 306, 309 (Utah Ct.App.1987). The Kelley Blue Book has been specifically recognized as a reliable reference for valuation of vehicles. See, e.g., Hall v. City of Santa Barbara, 833 F.2d 1270, 1274 n. 5 (9th Cir.1986) (recognizing the Kelley Blue Book as “the standard reference for prices” of vehicles and mobile homes); In re Mama's Original Foods, Inc., 234 B.R. 500, 504 (Bankr.C.D.Cal.1999) (Kelley Blue Book “establishes the market value for automobiles” and a sale at the Kelley Blue Book price “is presumptively at the market price”); In re Gates, 214 B.R. 467, 471 n. 6 (Bankr.D.Md.1997) (Kelley Blue Book is recognized “as credible evidence of valuation”); Burk v. Sunn, 68 Haw. 80, 705 P.2d 17, 25-26 (1985) (recognizing Hawaii Department of Social Services and Housing administrative rule providing that, for purposes of AFDC eligibility, the fair market value of an automobile may be determined by considering the Kelley Blue Book retail value) (emphasis added).

And, as the Colorado Court of Appeals found in People v. Thornton, 251 P.3d 1147 (Colo.App. 2010), "the Kelley Blue Book may be admitted as proof of value under section 18-4-414(2), C.R.S.2010, and CRE 803(17), without the need for expert testimony to substantiate the Blue Book's valuation."

I fully expect the court in Herrera to ultimately find the evidence from the Kelley Blue Book admissible under Rule 803(17). But we'll see...



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Some insurers would rather pay adjusters and lawyers instead of valid claims. I hope plaintiff gets interest too

Posted by: Brenda Pawloski | Nov 29, 2020 3:19:43 AM

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