Rule 1002. Requirement of the Original.
An original writing, recording, or photograph is required in order to prove its content unless these rules, other rules prescribed by the Supreme Court, or a statute provides otherwise.
Pa.R.E. 1002 differs from F.R.E. 1002 to eliminate the reference to Federal law.
This rule corresponds to the common law best evidence rule. See Hera v. McCormick, 425 Pa. Super. 432, 625 A.2d 682 (1993). The rationale for the rule was not expressed in Pennsylvania cases, but commentators have mentioned four reasons justifying the rule.
(1) The exact words of many documents, especially operative or dispositive documents, such as deeds, wills or contracts, are so important in determining a partys rights accruing under those documents.
(2) Secondary evidence of the contents of documents, whether copies or testimony, is susceptible to inaccuracy.
(3) The rule inhibits fraud because it allows the parties to examine the original documents to detect alterations and erroneous testimony about the contents of the document.
(4) The appearance of the original may furnish information as to its authenticity.
5 Weinstein & Berger, Weinsteins Evidence § 1002(2) (Sandra D. Katz rev. 1994).
The common law formulation of the rule provided that the rule was applicable when the terms of the document were material. The materiality requirement has not been eliminated, but is now dealt with in Pa.R.E. 1004(d). That rule provides that the original is not required when the writing, recording or photograph is not closely related to a controlling issue.
The case law has not been entirely clear as to when a party is trying to prove the content of a writing, recording, or photograph. However, writings that are viewed as operative or dispositive have usually been considered to be subject to the operation of the rule. On the other hand, writings are not usually treated as subject to the rule if they are only evidence of the transaction, thing or event. See Hamill-Quinlan, Inc. v. Fisher, 404 Pa. Super. 482, 591 A.2d 309 (1991); Noble C. Quandel Co. v. Slough Flooring, Inc., 384 Pa. Super. 236, 558 A.2d 99 (1989). Thus, testimony as to a persons age may be offered; it is not necessary to produce a birth certificate. See Commonwealth ex rel. Park v. Joyce, 316 Pa. 434, 175 A. 422 (1934). Or, a partys earnings may be proven by testimony; it is not necessary to offer business records. See Noble C. Quandel Co., supra.
Traditionally, the best evidence rule applied only to writings, but Pa.R.E. 1002 may be applicable to recordings or photographs. However, recordings and photographs are usually only evidence of the transaction, thing or event. It is rare that a recording or photograph would be operative or dispositive, but in cases involving matters such as infringement of copyright, defamation, pornography and invasion of privacy, the requirement for the production of the original should be applicable. There is support for this approach in Pennsylvania law. See Commonwealth v. Lewis, 424 Pa. Super. 531, 623 A.2d 355 (1993) (video tape); Anderson v. Commonwealth, 121 Pa. Cmwlth. 521, 550 A.2d 1049 (1988) (film).
Adopted May 8, 1998, effective October 1, 1998; rescinded and replaced January 17, 2013, effective March 18, 2013.
Committee Explanatory Reports:
Final Report explaining the January 17, 2013 rescission and replacement published with the Courts Order at 43 Pa.B. 651 (February 2, 2013).
The provisions of this Rule 1002 rescinded and replaced January 17, 2013, effective in sixty days, 43 Pa.B. 620. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (245808) and (276591).
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