Authentication – Rule 901, Ala. R. Evid.


Frohock v. Frohock, [Ms. 2210040; 2210077, July 29, 2022] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2022). The court (Fridy, J.; Thompson, P.J., and Moore, Edwards, and Hanson, JJ., concur) reverses the Mobile Circuit Court’s judgment of divorce awarding the wife $240,000 in equity of All-Tech Machining operated by the husband and owned by the couple. The award was based upon a valuation report prepared by Mark Pawlowski which was admitted into evidence over the husband’s objection. The court explains

“It is an established rule of evidence that, to admit any document into evidence over objection, the party offering the evidence must show that the document is genuine or authentic.” Hampton v. Bruno’s, Inc., 646 So. 2d 597, 599 (Ala. 1994). Rule 901(a), Ala. R. Evid., provides that “[t]he requirement of authentication or identification as a condition precedent to admissibility is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.” The Advisory Committee’s Notes further explain:

“Rule 901 embraces the historic requirement that the proponent of real or demonstrative evidence (all nontestimonial evidence, such as writings, objects, etc.) lay a threshold foundation, as a prerequisite to admissibility, sufficient to show that the evidence is what it is represented to be. ... When a writing is offered as evidence, Rule 901 continues the necessity for laying a foundation to authenticate the document as genuine.” “Authentication may be established by testimony from a witness with knowledge ‘that a matter is what it is claimed to be.’” Ex parte Jefferson Cnty., 330 So. 3d 830, 838 (Ala. Civ. App. 2021) (quoting Rule 901(b)(1), Ala. R. Evid.).

Ms. **11-12.

The court holds “[t]he wife offered no evidence, and the wife’s counsel elicited no evidence from the husband, indicating that the offered document was, in fact, the report Pawlowski had prepared. In the absence of such evidence, the document was not properly authenticated and should have been excluded from evidence.” Ms. **12-13.

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