The business entry exception to the hearsay evidence rule has been prolific of legal literature and litigation. Originally the law regarded all business entries as inadmissible in evidence to prove the truth of the facts recorded. However, at early common law the shopkeeper could not himself testify to the truth of a transaction, since he was an interested party; and if he kept no clerk, or his clerk were unavailable, no one else could so testify. In response to this evidentiary dilemma there appeared a double-barreled exception to the hearsay rule; namely, that business entries by a party (The Shopbook Rule), and business entries by a third person (The Regular Entries Rule) were admissible to prove their truth. Courts and legislatures so fused and confused the two rules, however, that their application in any given case became highly unpredictable. In addition, admission of a business entry was conditioned upon meeting certain technical prerequisites, which, as business grew in size and complexity, often became impossible or impracticable of attainment. Hence, rules, which originated in aid of the litigant who was bereft of proof, so developed that Justice Cardozo could say in summation "that many of the simplest things of life, transactions so common as the sale and delivery of merchandise, are often the most difficult to prove."

Included in

Evidence Commons