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Lloyd v. American Export Lines Case Brief

Summary of Lloyd v. American Export Lines, 580 F.2d 1179 (1978)

Relevant Facts: Two employees on board a ship, Alvarez, an engineer, and Lloyd, an electrician, engaged in a serious act of violence while docked in Japan.  Alvarez reported threats made by Lloyd to his supervisors, and because of his heart condition they in turn kept the work details for each separate. While loading the ship’s stores, Lloyd was ordered to assist, but b/c of his intoxication he was unable.  Alvarez was ordered to perform the task, and while doing so he was attacked by Lloyd.  During the Coast Guard hearing, both testified under oath as to the incident in question and the history of their relationship.  During the civil trial, the judge excluded the transcripts and final report from the Coast Guard hearing.

Legal Issue(s): Whether Alvarez or a predecessor in interest have the opportunity and similar motive to develop the testimony by direct, cross, or redirect examination to justify the admission of the transcript and final report from a prior proceeding?

Court’s Holding: There existed, under 804 sufficient opportunity and similar motive for the Coast Guard investigating officer to develop Lloyd’s testimony at the former hearing to justify its admission against Alvarez at the later trial.

Procedure: Transcript was w/h from Jury who returned a verdict in favor of Alvarez against American on the negl, but did not find a breach of warranty of seaworthiness.  Reversed and Remanded for new trial.

Law or Rule(s): In order for the hearsay exceptions of Rule 804 to apply it is required that the declarant be “unavailable,” or that he be “absent from the hearing and the proponent of his statement was unable to procure his attendance by process or other reasonable means.

Court Rationale: Export attempted numerous times to depose Lloyd but he repeatedly failed to appear. Lloyd’s own counsel could not secure his appearance, thus his unavailability was sufficient.  Congress did not define “predecessor.” Rule 804 serves the original intent of the drafters and expresses preferences: testimony given on the stand in person is preferred over hearsay; and hearsay, if of the specified quality, is preferred over complete loss of the evidence of the declarant.  Here, Alvarez sought to vindicate his individual interest by recovering for his injuries; and the Coast Guard sought to vindicate the public interest in safe and unimpeded merchant marine service.  The nucleus of operative facts was the same–the conduct of Lloyd and Alvarez aboard the ship.  The basic interest advanced by both, was a determination of culpability and, if appropriate, exacting a penalty for the same condemned behavior thought to have occurred.  The Coast Guard investigating officer was Alvarez’s predecessor in interest b/c he had an opportunity and similar motive to develop Lloyd’s testimony about the same material facts at the former hearing.  If it appears that in the former suit a party having a like motive to cross-examine about the same matters as the present party would have, was accorded an adequate opportunity for such examination, the testimony may be received against the present party.



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