What Can You Argue in a Breach of Agreement or Contract Case?
Sorting out the hearsay in a Tennessee business lawsuitBy Super Lawyers staff | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on February 22, 2023
Use these links to jump to different sections:
- What is Hearsay?
- Hearsay is Generally Not Admissible—But There are Exceptions
- Understanding the ‘Business Record’ Exception to Hearsay
What is Hearsay?In a breach of contract claim, the plaintiff (non-breaching business) must present evidence proving that the defendant actually violated the terms of the agreement. Relevant evidence can come in a wide range of different forms, including:
- The contract itself;
- Communications between the parties;
- Payments/financial receipts; and
- First-hand testimony of the parties.
Hearsay is Generally Not Admissible—But There are ExceptionsAs hearsay is second-hand information, it is strongly disfavored in civil legal proceedings, including breach of contract claims and other business disputes. For the most part, hearsay is not admissible in court. That being said, there are some important exceptions. In fact, under the Tennessee Code of Civil Procedure (Rule 803), there are 26 different hearsay exceptions. To be clear, most of them are not applicable to breach of contract claims. Nonetheless, hearsay may be admissible in a breach of contract lawsuit or other business dispute if the document in question qualifies as a valid business record.
Understanding the ‘Business Record’ Exception to HearsayUnder federal rules of evidence and Tennessee rules of evidence, a business record can be admitted into commercial disputes over an appropriate hearsay objection provided that the record arises out of an otherwise regular conduct activity. In contract litigation, this exception to hearsay is important: It often allows plaintiffs (the non-breaching business) to get relevant documents and records into evidence that would otherwise not be admissible. Getting the right evidence into court can be the difference between winning and losing a case. If you have any questions about hearsay and breach of contract claims, a law firm or an experienced Tennessee business litigation lawyer can offer legal advice. Before suing over the other party’s failure to uphold the contract, a business law attorney can address your concerns about contract disputes, terms of the contract, and oral agreements. Some questions you may want to ask an attorney at your initial consultation include:
- Do I have a valid contract?
- What is a material breach of the contract?
- What are the elements of a breach of contract claim?
- What is the statute of limitations for bringing a breach of contract lawsuit?
- What is the difference between damages and specific performance?
- Can the state hearsay exceptions help my case?
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