Before a document can be admitted in evidence in a Maryland injury case, the court must determine if the document is genuine and true. Courts refer to this as authentication. Maryland Rule 5-901 provides that authentication is satisfied “by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.” For example, a witness can testify that another person signed a contract in order to prove the authenticity of a signature on a document. A witness might also be able to testify as to the authenticity of a signature through testimony that establishes that the witness is familiar with the person’s signature.
Even if a document is properly authenticated, documents must still be admissible under hearsay rules. Maryland Rule 5-803(b)(6) concerns the admission of business records under Maryland law. Under the rule, a business record can be admitted if it is proven the record was made “at or near the time of the act, event, or condition, or the rendition of the diagnosis,” was made by a person with knowledge or from information given by a person with knowledge, that the business regularly made and maintained such a record, and that the record was made and maintained in the course of the regular course of business. This rule applies to businesses and associations, whether or not they are for-profit or not-for-profit. A recent case considered whether a medical record was properly admitted in a personal injury case.
In that case, the plaintiff was a passenger in a car when the car was involved in an accident with another vehicle. The plaintiff sued the drivers of both cars for injuries she claimed were caused by the crash. The case went to trial, and the jury found in the plaintiff’s favor on liability but awarded her no damages, so the plaintiff appealed. She claimed that her prior medical records should not have been admitted into evidence because they were not authenticated.