Rule against Hearsay Evidence
The Rule against Hearsay is as close to a silver bullet as you get in debt litigation. I’ve often said that debt collectors don’t have and can’t get (cost effectively) what they need to beat you. The rule against hearsay is the rule that lets you keep the records they do have out of evidence.
A Critical Definition
Hearsay is an out of court statement offered for the truth of whatever was said. That is, a statement that was made (or written, usually in debt cases) somewhere other than a courtroom, under oath.
For example, if you testified that “Mr. Smith said the dog was white,” this would be hearsay if you wanted the jury to believe the dog was white. That’s because in order to believe that, the jury would have to believe Mr. Smith – and he hasn’t testified under oath in the presence of the jury.
If you testified that “Mr. Smith said the dog was white” would not be hearsay if you wanted to prove that Mr. Smith could talk, though, because in that case the jury could evaluate your statement that he did talk and would not need to form a belief as to whether the statement was correct.
In debt collection cases, the debt collectors often seek to use affidavits or business records that say the debt was a certain amount, that certain procedures were followed, etc. But these are only helpful if you believe the records – and thus the records are hearsay. To keep the judge from allowing the records to count, you must object to their admission. And you will probably have to be prepared to argue they aren’t subject to the “business records exception.”