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Military Records Found to Fall Within the Hearsay Exception for a Public Record in Denial of Summary Judgment


Military Records Found to Fall Within the Hearsay Exception for a Public Record in Denial of Summary Judgment

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, April 16, 2015

In this case, it is alleged that the decedent, Richard Spells, was exposed to asbestos on equipment, including Warren Pumps, while working in the engine rooms of several ships during his time in the U.S. Navy in the 1960s. Warren moved for summary judgment, arguing lack of evidence to substantiate a claim of exposure, and to strike several military record exhibits offered by the plaintiff as inadmissible hearsay.

The court found all of the military records were admissible, and stated: “The military records submitted by Plaintiff set forth activities and observations made by military personnel in an agency of the United States government who were under a duty to so report. The records are approximately fifty years old and contain data concerning the ships and information about military personnel on the ships. Defendant has not alleged that the source of these documents or other circumstances indicate a lack of trustworthiness. As such, the exhibits fall within the hearsay exception for public records. Defendant’s motion to strike the exhibits is therefore, DENIED.”

The court subsequently denied Warren’s motion for summary judgment, as the military records showed Warren pumps were in the engine rooms of the ships were the decedent worked. As the court held: “Defendant does not claim that its products do not contain asbestos. Its motion simply alleges a lack of evidence that Warren Pumps were on the ships on which Mr. Spells worked and/or a lack of evidence that Mr. Spells worked around them. The Court disagrees. The evidence is sufficient to support an inference that Mr. Spells absorbed asbestos fibers from Warren equipment over a period of years. Speculation is not required. A fair-minded jury could indeed return a verdict in favor of the Plaintiff on this evidence. Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.”

Read the full decision here.

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