BizTerm Definition
hearsay rule
Full Definition

A rule of evidence that prohibits the consideration of secondhand testimony at a trial. For example, if an eyewitness to an accident later tells another person what she saw, the second person's testimony would normally be excluded from a trial by the hearsay rule. The major reason for this rule is that secondhand testimony is thought to be inherently unreliable in large part because the opposing party has no ability to confront and cross-examine the person who has firsthand knowledge of the event. However, there are a great many exceptions to the hearsay rule in situations where courts have concluded that a particular type of hearsay is likely to be reliable. These exceptions include statements by an opposing party that contradict what she has said in court (called "admissions against interest"), government records, the statements of dying people, spontaneous statements (something a person blurts out when excited or startled) and statements about a person's state of mind or future intentions, to name just a few. One important feature of Alternative Dispute Resolution proceedings such as arbitration and mediation is that statements that would be barred from being introduced in court as hearsay are allowed.

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