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Documents not offered for the truth of the matter asserted are, by definition, not hearsay. Hearsay is defined in Evid. Code, § 1200, as evidence of a statement that was made other than by a witness while testifying at the hearing and that is offered to prove the truth of the matter stated. Where the very fact in controversy is whether certain things were said or done and not whether these things were true or false, in these cases the words or acts are admissible not as hearsay, but as original evidence. For example, documents containing operative facts, such as the words forming an agreement, are not hearsay. The operative facts rule also applies in an action for fraud. A typical example of the nonhearsay use of an extrajudicial statement is to prove, as relevant to a disputed fact in an action, that the hearer obtained certain information by hearing the statement and, believing such information to be true, acted in conformity with such belief.
The sellers alleged that the buyers had underpaid them for live chickens by altering the number of dead chickens shown on poultry condemnation certificates (PCCs). The sellers' exhibits included the altered PCCs, the unaltered PCCs, purchase orders, delivery truck weight records, and the buyers' calculation sheets showing the amounts due. The trial court, after excluding the bulk of the sellers' documentary evidence on the grounds of lack of authentication and hearsay, ruled in favor of respondent buyers in a suit for breach of contract and fraud.
Were the altered PCCs presented as documentary evidence hearsay under Evid. Code, § 1200?
The court held that the altered PCCs were not hearsay under Evid. Code, § 1200, because they were offered not for their truth but as direct evidence of fraudulent statements. The unaltered PCCs were admissible as official records under Evid. Code, § 1280, based on an inspector's testimony establishing his personal knowledge as to their preparation. The unaltered PCCs were properly authenticated under Evid. Code, §§ 1400, 1401, based on testimony that the government provided them in response to a request. Purchase orders were business records under Evid. Code, § 1271. The calculation sheets were admissions by a party opponent under Evid. Code, § 1220. The weight records were adoptive admissions under Evid. Code, § 1221, because the buyers used them for calculations, and they were authenticated under Evid. Code, § 1414, by the buyers' admissions.