dead man's statute

A dead man's statute states that in a civil action, a party with an interest in the litigation may not testify against a dead party about communications with the dead party. In Larkin v. Metz, 398 Pa.Super. 235, the court noted that the “purpose of the Dead Man's Statute is to prevent the injustice that may result from permitting a surviving party to a transaction to give testimony favorable to himself and adverse to the decedent, which the decedent's representative would be in no position to refute by reason of the decedent's death”. The court further laid down the three conditions which must exist before the surviving party or witness is disqualified which include: "(1) the deceased must have had an actual right or interest in the matter at issue, i.e. an interest in the immediate result of the suit; (2) the interest of the witness — not simply the testimony — must be adverse; (3) a right of the deceased must have passed to a party of record who represents the deceased's interest."

The Federal Rules of Evidence does not contain a dead man's statute, but many states have adopted a dead man's statute in their evidence rules. However, in Clark v. Meyer the court noted that under New York law, a dead man's statute does not apply to documentary and other tangible evidence.

[Last updated in September of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]