The term “hearsay” is sometimes used in everyday language to mean gossip or an unsubstantiated rumor. However, the term has a very specific meaning within the legal context. In the law, it refers to one person’s testimony about another individual’s statement or words.
Generally, hearsay statements are not admissible in court, but there are some exceptions. In the example above, the defendant’s statement might be admissible as a declaration against interest. It would be up to the trial court to decide whether, under the particular circumstances of the case, the statement would be an exception to the hearsay rule.
Facts of the Case
In a recent case (unreported), the plaintiff was a woman who slipped and fell in water while walking in a mall. She and her husband filed suit against the defendants, the business that was allegedly responsible for watering plants in the mall and others. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants on the ground that the plaintiffs had failed to present evidence that would allow a reasonable jury to conclude that the defendants either knew or should have known that there was water on the floor of the mall.
Decision of the Appellate Court
The plaintiffs appealed the lower court’s summary judgment order to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court, relying on the statement of an alleged witness who had reportedly said that the plants had been watered recently. The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s order in favor of the defendants.
Although the plaintiffs had proffered a hearsay statement by a security supervisor who was apparently in the mall at the time of the accident, the supervisor was not an employee of any of the defendants named in the lawsuit. Thus, the statement could not be considered an admission against interest as to the defendants. Even if the statement was admissible as an exception to the hearsay rule, the court was of the opinion that it was not adequate proof that the defendants had actual or constructive notice that there was water on the floor. The court further noted that the plaintiffs would fare no better under the “mode of operation” approach to premises liability, since there was no evidence of a recurring dangerous condition.
Need to Talk to a Cape Cod Attorney About a Slip and Fall Accident?
Although the plaintiffs in this case were unsuccessful, every premises liability lawsuit is unique. As is the case with most personal injury actions, negligence claims arising from a fall or injury on someone else’s property can be very fact-specific. If you or a loved one has been hurt at a mall, restaurant, or other business, and you are wondering whether you may have a cause of action against the owner of the property, the experienced Cape Cod slip-and-fall accident attorneys at the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, offer a free consultation. Call us at (888) 262-6664 to schedule an appointment, and do not delay in seeking counsel. Evidence not collected in a timely fashion can easily disappear, making your case harder to prove later.
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