Recently at a local county court house, perhaps in Melbourne, Viera, New Smyrna, or Deland, a trial occured in which a credit card company sued an elderly lady over roughly $10,000 in allegedly unpaid credit card debt.
The bank attorney called a witness to appear telephonically from one of the bank’s offices in the midwest. The witness wanted to testify as to the amount owed, the charge off date, the date of the last payment, and so forth.
Under evidentiary law, witnesses can only testify regarding events they have personally witnessed. In other words, if a person did not see a traffic accident, they cannot testify about what transpired in the accident from what they read in a report. Such testimony would be hearsay. However, there is an exception relating to business records. In a situation in which a business regularly maintains records, the custodian of such records can testify to the information in the records, because the custodian of the records has personal experience and knowledge about the policies and procedures that ensure the accuracy of such records.
Under cross examination, the bank witness admitted that she did not work in the department where the records were entered into the system. Nor did she manage anyone entering or maintaining the records. She did not work on the computer systems in which the records were stored. She merely was able to access the records that others created and maintained.
For this reason her testimony was deemed to be hearsay, because she was not a custodian of the records in question. Because she was unable to testify, the bank was unable to prove its case, and the elderly woman was not found to be liable for the alleged credit card debt. A win for the little guy!