Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Pennsylvania Superior Court Reviews Rules of Authentication of Documents By Records Custodian

In the case of Bayview Loan Srv. v. Wicker, No. 3 WP 2018 (Pa. March 28, 2019), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court declined to adopt a bright-line rule forbidding authentication of documents recorded by a third party and not the records custodian of the documents at issue.

In this case involving litigation over a mortgage foreclosure, the Court noted that the parties agreed that current Pennsylvania precedent allows a records custodian to authenticate documents even if the witness did not personally record the specific information in the documents.

The parties in this matter disagreed, however, as to whether a records custodian can lay a foundation for documents incorporated into the files of the custodian’s employer when the information in the documents was recorded by a third party.  The Pennsylvania Supreme Court noted that this process has been allowed under the similar but not identical Federal Rule of Evidence 803(6), pursuant to the so-called “adopted business records doctrine.”

The Supreme Court ruled that a trial court is allowed to utilize its broad discretion in evidentiary matters by applying the business records exception of Pa. R.E. 803(6) and the Uniform Business Records as Evidence Act, 42 Pa. C.S.A. §6108, to determine if a witness can provide sufficient evidence relating to the preparation and maintenance of records in order to justify a presumption of trustworthiness, subject  to an opponent rebutting the evidence with any other circumstances indicating a lack of trustworthiness.  

In the end, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the Superior Court in concluding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing the testimony of the records custodian and admitting the documents under the facts of this case.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this case may click this LINK

Source: “Court Summaries” by Timothy L. Clawges. Pennsylvania Bar News (May 6, 2019). 

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