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Best Evidence Rule, Original Documentation

The best evidence rule generally requires that only original documentation may be admitted as evidence at trial to show the terms of the document/writing. A duplicate is not admissible under the best evidence rule. Interstate Distrib., Inc. v. Freeman, 904 S.W.2d 481,, 484 (Mo. Ct. App. 1995). It is a narrow rule and only applies when the evidence is offered to prove the terms or contents of a writing or recording. State v. Curry, 473 S.W.3d 747- 748-49 (Mo. 1971). Where a fact is evident in writing but also exists independently of that writing, then both sources, oral and written, become primary evidence, and the best evidence rule is inapplicable. Id. Therefore, the best evidence rule does not prohibit evidence based on personal knowledge even if documents or other writings would provide some of the same information. Aluminum Products Ent. v. Fuhrmann Tooling, 758 S.W.2d 119, 122 (Mo. Ct. App. 1988).

Even when the best evidence rule does apply, there are major exceptions. A duplicate document or writing may be admitted as evidence if it is shown that the primary evidence/original is lost or destroyed, is outside the jurisdiction, is in the possession or control of an adversary, or is otherwise unavailable or inaccessible. In re Estate of Looney, 975 S.W.2d 508 (Mo. Ct. App. 1998).