Hearsay within Hearsay or Double Hearsay

Hearsay is any out-of-court statement that is used to prove the truth of the matter asserted and that depends on the veracity of the statements for its value. State v. Harris, 620 S.W.2d 349, 355 (Mo. 1981). Generally, hearsay is inadmissible, State v. Shurn, 866 S.W.2d 447, 457-58 (Mo. 1993), though there are a significant number of wrinkles and exceptions to the rule.

A common wrinkle and nuance arises from “hearsay within hearsay” problems. If there’s an out of court statement which refers to yet another out of court statement, that is hearsay within hearsay (or “double” hearsay). One of the most common exceptions to hearsay is the business records exception, which provides that certain authenticated business records are admissible as evidence. See 490.692, RSMo. Importantly, any extraneous statements within the records are not automatically admissible. Evidence competent as “business records does no validate an extraneous hearsay statement contained in an otherwise admissible summary of those business records.” Stegall v. Wilson, 416 S.W.2d 658, 664 (Mo. Ct. App. 1967).

Accordingly, hearsay within hearsay is admissible “only where both the statement and the original hearsay evidence are within exceptions to the hearsay rule.” Killian Cost. Co. v. Tri-City Const. Co., 693 S.W.2d 819, 835 (Mo. Ct. App. 1985).

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