Double hearsay is also known as hearsay within hearsay. This is where we have a hearsay statement that contains another hersay statement. The double hearsay rule tells us that both the statement and the statement within the statement must be admissible, otherwise, only a portion of the evidence or possibly nothing gets admitted in court.
In federal court, F.R.E. 805 is the “hearsay within hearsay” rule. The Rule states that hearsay within hearsay is only admissible if each part of the combined statement is subject to an exception to the hearsay rule. In other words, if a party wants to introduce the entire statement into evidence, both statements (the statement and the statement within the statement) must fall within exceptions to the rule against hearsay.
Hearsay within Hearsay Example
Let’s say Sally works at a hospital. Her job is to take down information when patients come in. Patty comes to the hospital. She is bleeding from her head. Sally starts filling out her report. Sally records her observation that patient is bleeding from the head.
Sally asks what happened. Patty answers, “A flower pot fell on my head.” Now Sally’s report reflects that Patty told her that her head is bleeding because of the flower pot.
But there are two possible hearsay problems. First, is the report admissible? You need to look at the evidence rules because this is an out of court statement. But even if the report is generally admissible, there is a hearsay problem within the report. Patty told Sally about the flower pot. Sally wrote it down. That is also an out of court statement that is contained within the report. To admit the entire report in court, a judge will have to decide that the report *and* Patty’s statement to Sally are admissible.