Evidence- Hearsay-Scope of Federal Rule 43(a)
The clocktower of plaintiff county’s courthouse buckled and collapsed into the courtroom below. Charred timbers were found in the wreckage. Several residents reported that they saw lightning strike the tower five days before the collapse. Plaintiff carried insurance for loss by fire or lightning, and sued the insurers when they denied liability. Defendant claimed that the tower collapsed of its own weight because of faulty design, deterioration, and overloading. To account for the charred timbers defendant introduced into evidence a fifty-eight-year-old newspaper article from the files of the city newspaper describing a fire in the courthouse during its construction. The court overruled plaintiff’s objection that the article ought to be excluded as hearsay, and the jury found that lightning did not cause the collapse of the tower. Plaintiff appealed, specifying as sole error the admission of the newspaper article. On appeal, held, affirmed. Rule 43 (a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a federal court to relax the exclusionary hearsay rule when the evidence is relevant, material, and necessary, and there is circumstantial probability of its truthfulness. Dallas County v. Commercial Union Assur. Co., 286 F.2d 388 (5th Cir. 1961).