United States v. Duncan
919 F.2d 981 (1990)

  • Duncan and others were accused of a scheme to defraud insurance companies.
    • They allegedly bought multiple insurance policies, and then faked an accident, went to the hospital, and then asked each of the companies to pay the entire bill.
  • At trial, the prosecution attempted to introduce the insurance companies’ records showing that Duncan had been in the hospital over twenty times in the last five years.
    • Duncan objected on the grounds that the out-of-court records were hearsay.
    • The prosecution argued that as business records they were admissible as an exception to hearsay under FRE 803(6).
    • Duncan argued that the insurance companies’ records included other unauthenticated medical records and statements by doctors that the insurance companies did not create.
  • The Trial Judge allowed the records to be admitted.
  • The Trial Court found Duncan guilty.  He appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court found that although the insurance companies’ records contained information that they did not produce, they received the information from other businesses (aka the hospitals and doctors).  Since the records from the other businesses were themselves business records, there is no “accumulation of hearsay”, and the entire package is still admissible under FRE 803(6).
    • In addition, the Court found that since patients routinely authorize hospitals to release their medical information to insurance companies, the hospitals could be considered to be making an admission while acting as an agent of the patient, and the information would still be admissible under FRE 801(d)(2)(C-D).
      • That allows the Court to get around the FRE 805 requirement that says that the proponent of the information must show an independent foundation for any records within records.
  • Compare this case to United States v. Vigneau (187 F.3d 70 (1999)).  In Vigneau, some business records were found to not be admissible because they were not produced or verified by the business.  However, in that case, the information in question was not produced by a customer, not by another business.