Brief Fact Summary. Following a fight onboard a ship between two employees, Mr. Lloyd (Plaintiff) and Mr. Alvarez (Alvarez), the Coast Guard held a hearing to determine whether Plaintiff’s merchant marine rights should be revoked. Plaintiff gave testimony during that hearing and, at a subsequent action brought by Alvarez against the shipper, American Export Lines (Defendant), Defendant attempted to introduce that testimony to show Alvarez had started the fight. The lower court excluded the evidence and the jury returned a verdict for Alvarez.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Under Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b)(1), when a “sufficient community of interest” exists between a prior litigant and a party against whom prior testimony is offered, the prior litigant is a “predecessor in interest,” as that term is used in the Rule.
Issue. Should Plaintiff’s testimony from the prior hearing regarding the revocation of his license have been admitted in Alvarez’s Jones Act claim under Federal Rule of Evidence 804(b)(1)’s exception to the hearsay rule for prior testimony?
Held. Yes; the testimony was admissible under Rule 804(b)(1), as the Coast Guard and Alvarez shared a “community of interest,” which meets the Rule’s “predecessor in interest” requirement, and because both the Coast Guard and Alvarez had a “similar motive” to develop Plaintiff’s prior testimony.
Rule 803(8) defines the public records and reports which are not excludable, as follows: Records, reports, statements, or data compilations, in any form, of public offices or agencies, setting forth (A) the activities of the office or agency, or (B) matters observed pursuant to duty imposed by law as to which matters there was a duty to report, or (C) in civil actions and proceedings and against the Government in criminal cases, factual findings resulting from an investigation made pursuant to authority granted by law, unless the sources of information or other circumstances indicate lack of trustworthiness.View Full Point of Law