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Small-claims hearsay letter properly admitted

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A dentist’s letter that said a man suing him had never complained about the service he received was not improperly admitted in a small-claims collections action, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

The panel affirmed the trial court in Michael E. Hitchens v. Collection Specialists, Inc., 48A05-1306-SC-302, in which the Madison County Small Claims Court found in favor of Collection Specialists, Inc. The debt-collection company representing Dr. Brad Laconi claimed Michael Hitchens owed $3,440 for dental work.

But Hitchens argued the small-claims court erred by admitting a letter that contained hearsay, and that he was deprived an opportunity to cross-examine the dentist.

“Although Dr. Laconi’s letter was the only evidence that there was an agreement between Dr. Laconi and Hitchens regarding the dental work, it was admissible hearsay evidence, and it was permissible for the small claims court to base its judgment on the letter,” Judge Rudolph R. Pyle III wrote for the panel. While the letter wasn’t sworn, it was signed by the dentist and presented under oath.

The panel also gave some deference to the less-stringent evidence rules of small claims courts, following the Indiana Supreme Court holding in Matusky v. Sheffield Square Apartments, 654 N.E.2d 740 (Ind. 1995).

“On appeal, we wrote that the effect of re-writing the Small Claims Rules to provide that a judgment could not be based exclusively on hearsay evidence would ‘impose technical rules upon largely untrained litigants[,] completely thwarting the express purpose of providing an uncomplicated and simple method of resolution of issues in order to dispense speedy justice between the parties,’” Pyle wrote of Matusky.

“For the same reasons, we decline to impose such technical rules here, and we conclude that the trial court did not deny Hitchens due process.”


 

 

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  1. The is an unsigned editorial masquerading as a news story. Almost everyone quoted was biased in favor of letting all illegal immigrants remain in the U.S. (Ignoring that Obama deported 3.5 million in 8 years). For some reason Obama enforcing part of the immigration laws was O.K. but Trump enforcing additional parts is terrible. I have listed to press conferences and explanations of the Homeland Security memos and I gather from them that less than 1 million will be targeted for deportation, the "dreamers" will be left alone and illegals arriving in the last two years -- especially those arriving very recently -- will be subject to deportation but after the criminals. This will not substantially affect the GDP negatively, especially as it will take place over a number of years. I personally think this is a rational approach to the illegal immigration problem. It may cause Congress to finally pass new immigration laws rationalizing the whole immigration situation.

  2. Mr. Straw, I hope you prevail in the fight. Please show us fellow American's that there is a way to fight the corrupted justice system and make them an example that you and others will not be treated unfairly. I hope you the best and good luck....

  3. @ President Snow - Nah, why try to fix something that ain't broken??? You do make an excellent point. I am sure some Mickey or Minnie Mouse will take Ruckers seat, I wonder how his retirement planning is coming along???

  4. Can someone please explain why Judge Barnes, Judge Mathias and Chief Judge Vaidik thought it was OK to re weigh the evidence blatantly knowing that by doing so was against the rules and went ahead and voted in favor of the father? I would love to ask them WHY??? I would also like to ask the three Supreme Justices why they thought it was OK too.

  5. How nice, on the day of my car accident on the way to work at the Indiana Supreme Court. Unlike the others, I did not steal any money or do ANYTHING unethical whatsoever. I am suing the Indiana Supreme Court and appealed the failure of the district court in SDIN to protect me. I am suing the federal judge because she failed to protect me and her abandonment of jurisdiction leaves her open to lawsuits because she stripped herself of immunity. I am a candidate for Indiana Supreme Court justice, and they imposed just enough sanction so that I am made ineligible. I am asking the 7th Circuit to remove all of them and appoint me as the new Chief Justice of Indiana. That's what they get for dishonoring my sacrifice and and violating the ADA in about 50 different ways.

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