Reed v. McCord
160 N.Y. 330, 54 N.E. 737 (1899)

  • Reed was killed in an industrial accident, his estate sued McCord for wrongful death.
    • McCord was in charge of the work site.
  • At an inquest by the coroner, McCord admitted the details of the accident.
    • Basically, McCord admitted that the accident occurred because a safety device was not properly positioned.
  • At trial, Reed had the stenographer from the coroner’s inquest testify to the things McCord admitted to.
    • McCord objected to the introduction of this evidence on the grounds that it was hearsay.
      • McCord wasn’t personally present for the accident.  His testimony to the coroner was simply what he had heard from other people.
      • McCord argued that since he’d only heard what happened from someone else, it was clearly hearsay.
  • The Trial Judge allowed the evidence to be admitted.
  • McCord was found negligent in the death of Reed.  McCord appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court agreed that if McCord had stated that, “he had heard the safety device was not properly positioned,” then that would be hearsay.
    • However, McCord stated a fact, not that he’d heard something that other people believe to be a fact.  That’s an admission.
    • The Appellate Court found that in a civil action the admissions by a party of any fact material to the issue are always competent evidence against him.
      • The idea is that no party would be dumb enough to admit anything against themselves that they don’t believe to be true.
    • The Appellate Court found that McCord could argue that his statements to the coroner shouldn’t be given any weight by the jury, but they were still admissible.
  • The basic rule is that admissions are admissible, even if they are statements of opinion and even if the declarant lacks personal knowledge.
  • Btw, this case predated the FRE and was decided under the common law.
    • Under FRE 801(d)(2), admissions made by a party-opponent are not considered hearsay.