Personal Injury Claims and The "Admission" Exception to the Hearsay Rule


Hearsay is an out of Court statement introduced at trial for the truth of its contents.  Generally hearsay evidence is not admissible in Court but there are several exceptions to this.
One well established exception to the hearsay rule is the rule of “admissions against interest“.  If a party to a lawsuit says something that hurts their interests that statement can generally be admitted in Court for its truth.  Reasons for judgement were released today discussing this important principle in a personal injury lawsuit.
In today’s case (Jones v. Ma) the Plaintiff was injured in a BC motor vehicle collision.   After the crash the Plaintiff approached the Defendant and the Defendant admitted fault.   The Plaintiff then asked the Defendant’s permission to record their discussion using her cell-phone.  The Defendant consented and repeated this admission of fault.
In the formal lawsuit the Defendant denied being at fault for the crash and instead sought to blame the Plaintiff.  At trial the Plaintiff introduced the the cell phone recording into evidence.  The Defendant objected arguing that this was inadmissible hearsay.  Mr. Justice Ehrcke disagreed and admitted the evidence finding that if fit the “admissions” exception to the hearsay rule.  In reaching this decision the Court provided the following useful summary and application of the law:
…the admissibility of an out of court admission by a party to a lawsuit….was specifically addressed by the Ontario Court of Appeal in R. v. Foreman (2002), 62 O.R. (3d) 204 (C.A.). In that case Doherty J.A., delivering the judgment of the Court, said at pages 215 to 216:

Admissions, which in the broad sense refer to any statement made by a litigant and tendered as evidence at trial by the opposing party, are admitted without any necessity/reliability analysis. As Sopinka J. explained in R. v. Evans [1993] 3 S.C.R. 653, at page 664:

The rationale for admitting admissions has a different basis than other exceptions to the hearsay rule. Indeed, it is open to dispute whether the evidence is hearsay at all.The practical effect of this doctrinal distinction is that in lieu of seeking independent circumstantial guarantees of trustworthiness, it is sufficient that the evidence is tendered against a party. Its admissibility rests on the theory of the adversary system that what a party has previously stated can be admitted against the party in whose mouth it does not lie to complain of the unreliability of his or her own statements. As stated by Morgan, “[a] party can hardly object that he had no opportunity to cross-examine himself or that he is unworthy of credence save when speaking under sanction of oath” (Morgan, “Basic Problems of Evidence” (1963), pp. 265-6, quoted in McCormick on Evidence, ibid., p. 140). The rule is the same for both criminal and civil cases subject to the special rules governing confessions which apply in criminal cases.  [Emphasis in original].

[10]         I agree with that statement of the law. It was adopted by our Court of Appeal in R. v. Terrico, 2005 BCCA 361. Admissions made by one party to litigation are generally admissible if tendered by the opposing party, without resort to any necessity/reliability analysis.

[11]         The evidence tendered by the plaintiff in this case of her conversation with the defendant Ma at the scene of the accident is admissible in evidence.

[12]         The cell phone recording which was marked as Exhibit A on the voir dire and the transcript of the recording which was marked as Exhibit B may now both be marked as exhibits on the trial proper.

[13]         The fact that the defendant did not understand at the time of the conversation that what she said might be used in litigation is not a basis for excluding the evidence. This is a civil case. Unlike a criminal case, there is no issue here about voluntariness of a statement to a person in authority and no issue about compliance with the requirements of theCanadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Counsel for the defendant agrees that the plaintiff was not a person in authority and that she was not a state agent, as those terms are used in the context of confessions in criminal cases.

[14]         The defendant’s concern that only part of the conversation was recorded, that the defendant had hurt her head, that the defendant did not know the use to which the recording would be put, and that the statement might therefore not be reliable, are matters that can be explored in cross-examination and may go to the weight to be attached to this evidence. They do not form a basis for the exclusion of the evidence.

admissions against interest, adverse admissions, Hearsay, Jones v. Ma, Mr. Justice Ehrcke, the Admission exception to the hearsay rule

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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