In this recent NJ DYFS case, the New Jersey Supreme Court gives some guidance to when documents should be admitted under the business record exception to the hearsay rule.
DYFS v. M.C., III/ Matter of M.C. IV and N.C., ? N.J. ?, 2010 N.J. LEXIS ? (March 31, 2010) – Order finding abuse and neglect affirmed. “Our disposition of this case makes it unnecessary to decide whether various exhibits that were admitted would have been admissible in evidence if a proper objection had been made.
Nevertheless, this appeal highlights the need to give some guidance for future cases. We take this opportunity to give some general guidance for the admission of documentary evidence in abuse and neglect cases…. [The] key to the admissibility of documents … is whether the evidence was created ‘in the regular course of business of any hospital or any other public or private institution or agency.’ …
Although the phrase ‘in the regular course of business’ is not defined in Title 9, our courts have suggested that the phrase should be interpreted as identical to the meaning of that phrase in the business-records exception to the hearsay rule….
Under the business records exception to the hearsay rule, a party seeking to admit a hearsay statement pursuant to this rule must demonstrate that ‘the writing [was] made in the regular course of business,’ the writing was ‘prepared within a short time of the act, condition or event being described,’ and ‘the source of the information and the method and circumstances of the preparation of the writing must justify allowing it into evidence.’ State v. Matulewicz, 101 N.J. 27, 29 (1985) (citation omitted).” (James A. Louis, D.P.D., Law Guardian; Beatrix W. Shear, D.P.D., for M.C., III)