Is a Forwarded Email Attachment an Exception to the Hearsay Rule?

Is a Forwarded Email Atta…

The Iowa Court of Appeals recently addressed the above-described question. Normally an admission by a party opponent is not hearsay. A document drafted by a party opponent would clearly fit within such an admission. It is less clear, however, if a party is making a similar admission where the party attaches a document prepared by a different party to an email the party then forwards on.

The Iowa Court of Appeals examined the above question under the rubric of an “adoptive admission” which, in summary, requires adoption of a statement by another by clear statement of assent. The Court of Appeals was confronted with a financial document that had been created by a third party but was then forwarded on by a party opponent. The document was central to a dispute concerning a financial matter.

The Court of Appeals found that because the party opponent, in forwarding the attachment, did not add language in the body of the forwarding email indicating any assent to or adoption of the attachment, the mere act of forwarding the attached document did not meet the requisite standard of adoption. The presumed inverse conclusion from that decision is that if a party does add sufficient language in the body of the forwarding email to suggest the party agrees with, endorses, or otherwise adopts the attachment that had been drafted by a different party, that would qualify as an adoption, bringing the attachment within the hearsay exception of an admission by a party opponent. The case at issue is Dee et al v. Burgett and was decided by the Iowa Court of Appeals on April 15, 2020. A copy of that decision is linked here.