Admitting Documents Into Evidence in a Small Claims Case Without Producing the Author

By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold, NJ Business Litigation Attorney

What is the legal standard and analysis required of a trial court in a small claims case when asked to admit a hearsay document into evidence? N.J.R.E. 101(a)(2)(A) permits relaxation of the Rules of Evidence in small claims matters “to admit relevant and trustworthy evidence in the interest of justice.” There is a series of published cases which hold that “the fact that hearsay evidence is proffered does not automatically require its exclusion. The test is relevance and trustworthiness.” A judge in a small claims case is “required to consider the evidence and make a determination of its admissibility based on its trustworthiness and probative value. The failure to do so constitutes reversible error.”

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