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December 31, 2023 Commercial Litigation

The Role of Evidence in Commercial Litigation

Even those with only a cursory knowledge of law understand the importance of evidence in commercial litigation. A fingerprint at a crime scene can help catch a robber, and surveillance camera footage may help track down a hit-and-run driver. The same basic principle applies to commercial litigation. Whether you are defending your company from a baseless lawsuit or you are trying to resolve a contract dispute, evidence will undoubtedly form the basis of your legal strategy. The next questions are obvious: What kind of role does evidence play in New Jersey commercial litigation, and how can you use evidence to your advantage?

Types of Evidence in Commercial Litigation that May Be Useful 

There is a wide range of evidence that may be useful in commercial litigation, and almost anything imaginable may find its way to court under the right circumstances. Your evidence depends entirely on your company’s unique situation and the factors involved. That said, evidence is usually divided into a number of categories:

  • Real evidence: As the name suggests, real evidence includes real items that lawyers can bring to court. These might include tape recordings, physical photographs, allegedly defective products, or a paper copy of a contract between two companies. 
  • Demonstrative evidence: Demonstrative evidence is similar to real evidence because it typically takes the form of a physical object. However, demonstrative evidence enhances the court’s understanding of your narrative in a much more illustrative fashion. For example, a doctor might show how a specific bone was shattered using an anatomically correct model of a kneecap. A more business-specific example of demonstrative evidence might be a chart that shows a company’s declining earnings after an alleged breach of contract. 
  • Documentary evidence: The traditional definition of documentary evidence is something upon which relevant information has been printed. However, the definition is now being expanded to include digital records. This might include business records, computer records, or even a newspaper clipping showing the loss of a company’s reputation. 
  • Testimonial evidence: When lawyers call upon people to testify in court, these witnesses provide “testimonial evidence.” In other words, their testimony is a form of evidence. These witnesses might include employees, board members, CEOs, and other people tied to various companies. They might also include independent “expert” witnesses, such as forensic accountants or scientists. 

When Is Evidence Admissible in New Jersey Commercial Litigation?

Not all evidence is admissible in New Jersey commercial litigation, and some evidence might be rejected by the court. There are some forms of evidence that are always inadmissible, and one common example is hearsay. Hearsay is when someone claims that they heard another person say something. Confirming the validity of this information is challenging for a number of reasons, so it is not accepted by the court. 

That being said, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Perhaps the most relevant exception to commercial litigation is the “Records of a Regularly Conducted Activity” exception. Under this exception, hearsay may be accepted by the court if it involves the “record of an act, event, condition, opinion, or diagnosis.” Specifically mentioned under US law is a record “kept in the court of a regularly conducted activity of a business.”

On a general note, evidence is inadmissible when its value is outweighed by various factors:

  • Unfair prejudice
  • Confusing issues
  • Misleading the jury
  • Causing delays
  • Wasting time
  • Needlessly cumulative

Using Evidence in Commercial Litigation

One of the most effective types of evidence to use in commercial litigation is demonstrative evidence. Numerous studies have shown that audio-visual evidence is more engaging than other forms of evidence. This means that when you use demonstrative evidence, people (including judges) are more likely to pay attention and absorb the information. More importantly, people are much more likely to remember audial information when it is accompanied by visual cues. 

Due to the “performative” nature of demonstrative nature, it may be helpful to rehearse beforehand and plan out exactly how you’re going to “tell your story” using the evidence. It may even be helpful to conduct a mock trial with a mock jury, as this helps you gauge the reactions of average people. 

Where Can I Find a Qualified, Experienced Business Litigation Attorney in New Jersey?

If you have been searching for an experienced business litigation attorney in New Jersey, look no further than Snellings Law, LLC. Over the years, we have guided numerous New Jersey companies through the commercial litigation process. Business owners who ask themselves about the role of evidence in these legal cases are on the right track. The next step will be to get in touch with a New Jersey commercial litigation attorney and determine exactly what kind of evidence you need to gather – and how you are going to use it during your trial. Book your consultation today to get started with an effective action plan.