Trial-Related Issues (Including Motions in Limine)

Evidence, Hearsay

Except as indicated, all indented material is copied directly from the court’s opinion. 

Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court

Decisions of the Tennessee Court of Appeals


City of Lavergne v. Gure, M2021-00148-COA-R3-CV, p. 4-5 (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 25, 2022).

We generally review a trial court’s evidentiary decisions for an abuse of discretion. State v. Davis, 466 S.W.3d 49, 61 (Tenn. 2015). But whether a statement is hearsay is a question of law, which we review de novo. Keisling v. Keisling, 196 S.W.3d 703, 721 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2005); see State v. Gilley, 297 S.W.3d 739, 760 (Tenn. Crim. App. 2008). Whether the Google Maps evidence is hearsay requires looking to the definitions of “hearsay,” “declarant,” and “statement” in our rules of evidence. See TENN. R. EVID. 801. Interpretation of the rules of evidence is also a question of law. Holder v. Westgate Resorts Ltd., 356 S.W.3d 373, 379 (Tenn. 2011). The “same rules of statutory construction apply in the interpretation of rules.” Thomas v. Oldfield, 279 S.W.3d 259, 261 (Tenn. 2009). Our “goal is to ascertain and give effect to [the Tennessee Supreme] Court’s intent in
adopting its rules.” Id.

[A]n evidentiary error is not reversible unless “the substance of the evidence and the specific evidentiary basis supporting admission were made known to the court by offer or were apparent from the context.” TENN. R. EVID. 103(a)(2). Reversal is also not warranted unless “a substantial right of the party [wa]s affected.” Id. 103(a); see TENN. R. APP. P. 36(b). In other words, we will not reverse a trial court’s judgment if an evidentiary error is harmless. See State v. Rodriguez, 254 S.W.3d 361, 370 (Tenn. 2008).

In Re Analesia Q., No. E2021-00765-COA-R3-PT, p. 16 (Tenn. Ct. App. May 10, 2022).

Here, the Child is under thirteen years of age, and there was an allegation of sexual abuse made during a proceeding to terminate parental rights. Accordingly, the trial court could properly allow Foster Mother’s statements regarding the Child’s disclosures as long as the circumstances “indicate[d] trustworthiness.” Tenn. R. Evid. 803(25); see also In re L.M.H., No. E2017-00604-COA-R3-PT, 2017 WL 4331037, at *4 (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 28, 2017) (“This Court has stated that ‘the determination of trustworthiness is a matter for the trial court to decide and that decision will not be disturbed on appeal unless there is a showing of abuse of discretion.’” (quoting State Dept. of Human Servs. v. Purcell, 955 S.W.2d 607, 609 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1997)).


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