One of the many roles of judges during a Florida personal injury case is to determine what evidence is admitted at trial as well as which evidence the jury will be permitted to consider during its deliberations. To guide a judge’s decision on these critical issues, lawmakers have enacted the Florida Rules of Evidence.
One of the unique aspects of Florida evidentiary law is the lack of what is known as a dead man’s statute. About half of the states have a dead man’s statute, which prohibits an interested party from testifying about a conversation they had with someone who has since died. The idea behind the rule is that because the deceased person is not present to refute the representations made by the interested party, it is difficult to ensure these statements are false or self-serving.
Instead of a dead man’s statute, Florida lawmakers have included section 90.804(2)(e) to help alleviate some of the concerns the dead man’s statute was meant to address. Under section 90.804(2)(e), written or oral statements that were made by a person who is unavailable due to “death or because of then-existing physical or mental illness or infirmity” can be admitted into evidence. These statements are only admissible, however, if the statement relates to the subject matter of the statement made by an adverse party to the deceased. The phrasing of Florida’s rule is confusing. Simply stated, it allows for the statements of the deceased to come into evidence if an adverse party testifies to conversations with the deceased.