Whether it be a government report or a business record, opinions contained in those documents are not admissible in the courts of the Commonwealth. Certain facts, which are contained in public records are admissible but evaluative reports, opinions, and conclusions are not. This is a general statement of the law in Massachusetts where records of primary facts are admissible in evidence but investigations and inquiries are not. This is not to say that such reports are of no use. They may well contain statements from primary actors or precipitant witnesses, which are admissible. Those statements would need an independent basis of admission, such as a statement of a party opponent, which qualifies as an admission. Once again, therefore, despite the general rule that would cause us to set aside these reports, your lawyer would be passing up valuable information if he/she were to ignore the report. Until recently, the Department of Public Health’s Division of Health Care Quality could be obtained and the attorney could see reports for complaints and investigations of falls in nursing homes, for example. This was useful data as it provided evidence of notice against a nursing home and would often provide information about the very incident in a detailed report. Similarly, OSHA investigations may have a wealth of useful information even if its findings are not admissible in the state court. Other governmental agencies, such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission may have helpful data and the restriction on opinions may not hold if the proffered evidence is to show notice on the part of the defendant. The bottom line is that the more ammunition a zealous advocate has, even if at first blush it seems not to be admissible, the greater the chance of success in the pursuit of personal injury cases.
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