Lewis worked at a railyard. He claimed that he was moving
a boxcar and the brake failed, causing him to get injured. He sued the
The railroad company countered by arguing that there was
nothing wrong with the brake, Lewis just panicked.
At trial, the railroad attempted to introduce both a
"personal injury report" and an "inspection report"
from the accident. They said that the brakes worked just fine.
Lewis objected on the grounds that the out-of-court
records were hearsay.
The railroad argued that they were an exception to hearsay
because they were business records that were made in the regular
course of business.
At that time, business records were excluded from
hearsay by 28 U.S.C. §1732.
The person who wrote the personal injury report was
living in another State and could not be subpoenaed, and the person who
wrote the inspection report was dead and unable to testify.
The Trial Judge allowed the reports to be admitted.
The Trial Court found for the railroad. Lewis appealed.
The Appellate Court affirmed.
Lewis argued that, based on the decision in Palmer v.
Hoffman (318 U.S. 109, 63 S.Ct 477, 87 L.Ed. 645 (1943)), the
accident reports were not made in the regular course of business, but in anticipation
of litigation, and were therefore not covered by the hearsay
The Appellate Court distinguished this case from Palmer,
saying that in Palmer, the statement in question was made by
someone personally involved in the accident, and therefore the possible
target of a lawsuit (so he had reason to lie). In this case, the
accident reports were made by people who were not involved in the
accident, and were not the potential target of a lawsuit, so they had no
reason to lie.
Although they'd be out of a job if the company went out
of business. Isn't that motivation...?
Also, the law required the railroads to make reports of
every accident, so the reports must therefore be considered to be in the
regular course of business.
Basically, as long as there is another legitimate
business purpose, a document can be admissible even if it is also
prepared in anticipation of litigation.
This case was decided before the FRE was
implemented. Today it would be covered by FRE 803(6).
Btw, because of this case, documents that are created in
anticipation of litigation, but also have a legitimate business purpose
are now called "Lewis Documents" and are generally admissible.