The judge plays several roles in a Florida personal injury trial. Among a judge’s most important job is to determine which evidence the jury is permitted to consider in coming to its decision. When preparing for trial, parties gather all the evidence they hope to use to support their case. However, not all evidence is admissible for every purpose. Some evidence is categorically prohibited, and other evidence is admissible for limited purposes. The judge decides what evidence the jury will be able to consider, and for what purposes. In making these decisions, judges must follow the Florida Rules of Evidence.
In a recent Florida slip and fall case, the court had occasion to discuss what is called the “best evidence rule.” Under Florida Statutes section 90.954, “except as otherwise provided by statute, an original writing, recording, or photograph is required in order to prove the contents of the writing, recording, or photograph.” Thus, under the rule, if the evidence is a writing, recording, or photograph, only the original source of that evidence can be submitted. In the case mentioned above, the evidence at issue was video surveillance tape from the grocery store where the plaintiff slipped and fell.
Under the best evidence rule, the original source of the evidence is required unless: