Every judge is skilled, but every trial is dynamic and unique. To ensure a fair process and ruling, the Indiana Supreme Court has adopted Rules of Evidence1 to supplement all of the other bodies of law that apply to a given case. In civil litigation ranging from personal injury to divorce cases, an attorney may make objections to testimony (i.e., a person sworn under oath) or exhibits (i.e., documents).
This blog explores three common objections to testimony and exhibits. With an objection to testimony, a litigant must stop his or her testimony until the trial court rules. If the objection is sustained, the person may not answer. If “overruled,” the litigant may not answer. The most common objection is to “hearsay,” which occurs when a party testifies about what someone else said, other than the other party. Generally, this is impermissible.
The second is akin to the hearsay objection as it relates to documents. Generally, documents, such as medical records, are inadmissible in court unless the person who maintains them (i.e., the record keeper) testifies they are authentic and complete or a written document from the record-keeper is attached. This document authenticates the documents. Without one of these, typically business records of all types are inadmissible. However, trial courts are more flexible with this rule as it relates to domestic cases for a variety of reasons.
The third objection is lodged to testimony that is not relevant and intended to be hurtful or inflict bias in a litigant’s case. This objection is to relevancy. All evidence, both in terms of testimony and documents, must be relevant to a case. If it is not, this objection would be sustained. A classic example in a divorce case is where testimony elicited to establish or bring up an affair. Indiana does not have “fault-based” divorce and this is generally inadmissible testimony.
We hope this blog post helps you understand common objections to documentary and testimonial evidence at trial. If so, it has met it general educational goals. This blog is written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates practice throughout the State of Indiana and handle a variety of cases.