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business records

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n. ~ Documents and other materials created or received by a commercial enterprise in the course of operations and preserved for future use.


An organization may have many business records1 that fall under the general definition of a record2 but that are not covered by the more specific definition of business records established by the Federal Rules of Evidence (cited below; most states have similar rules). The distinction is significant in the context of litigation. All materials that fall under the more general understanding of business records are subject to discovery, but only those records that are the result of regularly conducted activity fall under the hearsay exemption of the Federal Rules of Evidence and are admissible in court as evidence.

(Fed. R. Evid., 804 §6) Records of regularly conducted activity. A memorandum, report, record, or data compilation, in any form, of acts, events, conditions, opinions, or diagnoses, made at or near the time by, or from information transmitted by, a person with knowledge, if kept in the course of a regularly conducted business activity, and if it was the regular practice of that business activity to make the memorandum, report, record or data compilation, all as shown by the testimony of the custodian or other qualified witness, or by certification that complies with Rule 902 (11), Rule 902 (12), or a statute permitting certification, unless the source of information or the method or circumstances of preparation indicate lack of trustworthiness. The term 'business' as used in this paragraph includes business, institution, association, profession, occupation, and calling of every kind, whether or not conducted for profit.
(Skupsky and Manta–a 1994, p. 23–24) Business records are hearsay. 'Hearsay' is normally inadmissible in evidence, but records which meet the definition of business records are admissible notwithstanding that they are hearsay. . . . From a judicial standpoint, a record or data compilation must have four qualities in order to qualify as a business record: It must be made at or near the time of the event that it records; It must be made by or from information transmitted by a person with knowledge of the event; It must be made in the course of a regularly conducted business activity; It must have been the regular practice of that business activity to make a document or data compilation.