Lewis v. Baker
526 F.2d 470 (1975)

  • 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 railroad.
    • 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 exception.
    • 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.