Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Email Admissibility — Hearsay — State of Mind Exception — There Is No “Self-Serving” Objection

Brown v. Golden State Foods Corps., 2015 Wash. App. LEXIS 371 (Wash. Ct. App. Feb. 24, 2015):

Anthony Brown appeals from the trial court's order granting summary judgment to Golden State Foods Corporation (GSF) on Brown's claims of disability discrimination, retaliatory discharge, and failure to provide rest or meal breaks. Brown also appeals from the trial court's order denying Brown's summary judgment motion on the same claims, Brown's motion to compel discovery, and Brown's motion to strike evidence. We agree with Brown in part. Because Brown establishes a genuine issue of material fact to warrant a trial on his failure to accommodate claim to survive summary judgment, we reverse the trial court on that ground only. In all other respects, we affirm the trial court.


Brown argues that the internal e-mails GSF produced were "self-serving statements" that the trial court should have excluded. Br. of Appellant at 16. GSF argues that Brown waived the issue by failing to request a continuance and that the e-mails were hearsay admissible under the state-of-mind and business records exceptions. We agree with GSF and affirm the trial court.

There is no evidentiary rule excluding "self-serving" statements. State v. Pavlik, 165 Wn. App. 645, 651-54, 268 P.3d 986 (2011) (exploring the history of ER 801), review denied, 174 Wn.2d 1009 (2012). Rather, the term "self-serving" has been used as "a shorthand way of saying that it was hearsay and did not fit into any of the recognized exceptions to the hearsay rule." State v. King, 71 Wn.2d 573, 577, 429 P.2d 914 (1967). Accordingly, we employ a hearsay analysis.

A statement is hearsay if it is made outside of the trial or hearing and offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted. ER 801(c). A statement is not excluded by the hearsay rule if it is offered for a reason other than to prove the truth of the matter [*16]  asserted, such as intent, plan, motive, or design. ER 803(a)(3). GSF did not offer its internal e-mails in order to prove that "we can get rid of [Brown] after 8/8"--that is precisely what GSF did. CP at 509. Rather, GSF offered its internal e-mails to show a then-existing plan to terminate Brown's employment. This falls squarely within the ER 803(a)(3) exception, and the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Brown's motion to strike.


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