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Case Summary: U-Haul Int’l; Authentication of Database Summaries and the Underlying Data

Posted by rjbiii on October 16, 2009

Lumbermens Insurance company objected to a Trial Court’s admission of computer generated summaries of payments for loss adjustments produced by another insurance company. Each summary related to a specific individual insurance claim. Lumbermens appealed to the ninth circuit.

Lumbermens first contended that the summaries are hearsay not fitting within the business records exception (FRE 803(6)) of the FRE, and therefore should have been excluded.
The court began by explaining that FRE 803(6) allows records of regularly conducted business activity meeting the criterial laid out as follows constitute an exception to the prohibition against hearsay evidence:

A . . . report, record, or data compilation, in any form, of acts, events, condition, opinions, or diagnoses, made at or near the time by, or from information transmitted by, a person with knowledge, if kept in the course of a regularly conducted business activity, and if it was the regular practice of that business activity to make the . . . report, record or data compilation, all as shown by the testimony of the custodian or other qualified witness . . . unless the source of information or the method or circumstances of preparation indicate lack of trustworthiness.

The court then reiterated its previous stance that it is immaterial that business records are maintained in a computer rather than in company books. The logical extension of this principle is that evidence that has been compiled from a computer database is also admissible under the business records exception, provided it meets the criterial of FRE 803(6). The court quoted several decisions, including Weinstein’s Federal Evidence, which stated that “The important issue is whether the database, not the printout from the database, was compiled in the ordinary course of business.”

The court concluded that the summaries fit squarely within the exception provided under FRE 803(6). It noted that the trial court had concluded:

  1. the underlying data was entered into the database at or near the time each payment was made;
  2. the persons entering the data had knowledge of the payments that precipitated the data entry;
  3. the data was kept in the course of regularly conducted business activity; and
  4. Mr. Matsush, the authenticating witness, was qualified to testify to this information.

The court concluded that nothing in the record indicated that any of these findings were clearly erroneous.

Mr. Matush’s testimony that data entry for each payment occurs at the time of the payment, and that employees routinely queried the database to generate summaries. The court continued it’s description:

Matush testified that he was familiar with the record-keeping practices of the company, testified regarding the computer system used to compile and search the insurance claim records, and testified regarding the process of querying the computer system to create the summaries admitted at trial. This description of the process used to create the summaries was sufficient to authenticate the evidence, and the district court did not abuse its discretion in holding that a sufficient foundation was laid to admit the exhibits.

(Emphasis added).

Finally, the court was unconvinced by Lumbermens’ arguments that the summaries were inadmissible under FRE 1006, allowing summaries of “voluminous” writings to admitted only if the original data is accessible. The court stated that the summaries themselves are the business records, and so no additional data needed to be made available.

Posted in 9th Circuit, Admissibility of ESI, Authentication, Case Blurbs, Circuit Judge J. Clifford Wallace, Databases, FRE 1006, FRE 803, Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »