Williams v. Alexander 309 N.Y. 283, 129 N.E.2d 417 (1955)
Williams broke his leg after getting hit by Alexander's
There was a disagreement as to who was at fault for the
Williams sued Alexander.
At trial, Williams attempted to introduce a portion of the
In response, Alexander attempted to introduce more of the
Alexander had a record written by a doctor that said
Williams told him that Alexander's car was at a standstill and was
rear-ended, propelling it into Williams.
The doctor was not called as a witness.
Williams objected on the grounds that the statement in
the record was hearsay. (He also denied making the statement.)
Alexander argued that the statement in the record was
still admissible under the FRE 803(6) exception to hearsay
for business records.
The Trial Judge allowed the doctor's statement to be
The Trial Court found for Alexander. Williams appealed.
The Appellate Court affirmed. Williams appealed.
The New York Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new
The New York Supreme Court looked to the New York Civil
Practice Act and found that business records are admissible only when
they are "made in the regular course of business."
The 'business' of the hospital was to treat patients, so
only medical records that could assist with diagnosis and treatment can
be considered 'regular'. The admission allegedly made by Williams had
nothing to do with his treatment.
Since the statement allegedly made by Williams was not in
the "regular course of business", it was not an exception to
the hearsay rule and was not admissible. The Court found that the
statement was prejudicial and therefore ordered a new trial.
In a dissent it was argued that a record is a record, and
even if the doctor's note about Williams admission wasn't required for the
normal course of hospital business there is no reason to doubt it's
authenticity any more than the rest of the business record and therefore
it should be admitted.
Williams could have put the doctor on the stand, who could
have testified as to what Alexander said, and that would be admissible
under FRE 801(d)(2) as an admission. Alternately, he could
have tried to establish the entry as a past recollection recorded
under FRE 803(5).
Of course, he'd have to get the doctor to testify.
If the doctor didn't remember, Williams could have given
the business record to the doctor to refresh his memory.
This case was decided before the FRE was
implemented. Today it would be covered by FRE 803(6).