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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger

What Is the Dead Man's Statute in Texas? [2023]

In legal proceedings, there are a variety of rules and laws that govern how evidence is used and presented in court. One such rule in Texas is the Dead Man's statute, which can significantly impact civil cases involving deceased individuals.

Also referred to as the "Dead Man's Rule" or the "Dead Man Act," this legal rule prohibits certain types of testimony in civil cases involving a deceased person.

Specifically, the rule prohibits an interested party from testifying regarding any oral statements made by the departed individual. An interested party, in this context, refers to someone who stands to gain or lose something in the legal proceedings.

Under the dead man's rule, if the witness is an interested or opposing party, they are not allowed to testify against the decedent's oral statement.

This is because the rule prevents a situation where the opposing party can use the dead man's statement as evidence without any way for the deceased person or their legal representatives to challenge that information. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can advise on questions such as, "Who can file wrongful death in Texas?"

When Does the Dead Man's Rule Apply?

When Does the Dead Man's Rule Apply?

The dead man's statute applies in civil cases, but the rule's scope differs between jurisdictions.

Nonetheless, the rule's primary objective prohibits an interested party from testifying against a deceased person's oral statement because the dead person cannot respond to or contest any misrepresentations.

However, if a person with an interest in the case qualified as only nominally a party, they are not subject to the dead man's statute.

The reason for this rule is to protect the estate of the decedent. These legal restrictions prevent fraud, such as a party's testimony making false statements about a deceased person who cannot defend themselves.

While the court examines the admissibility of a dead man's statements, plaintiffs need to understand the party's capacity to testify thereto.

The dead man's statute is just one of the legal tools that apply in complex lawsuits. While understanding the rule is key to a successful trial, it is merely one of the many other applicable regulations that must be considered when presenting evidence in a court of law. Wrongful death lawyers can help navigate the process.

Who Are the Legal Representatives in the Dead Man's Statute?

If an interested party in a civil case wants to introduce a deceased person's oral statement as evidence, they must do so through the testimony of the decedent's legal spokesperson.

Legal delegates are individuals who can act on behalf of the deceased person's estate. In most cases, this will be the executor or administrator of the estate, including the decedent's heirs.

The representative can testify about the oral statement made by the deceased person and provide any other relevant information about the decedent's wishes or intentions.

This testimony is typically given in response to a request made by the other party, who is seeking to use the deceased person's oral statement against the estate.

It's important to note that legal delegates are only nominally a party to the case. They are not there to represent their own interests but rather the interests of the departed person and their estate.

This means that they may not be able to testify about certain things and must follow the applicable rules of evidence.

The dead man's statute prohibits the other party from calling a person lacking sufficient intellect to testify thereto.

In many cases, this will be a close family member (such as a child) or friend of the deceased who might have a bias in favor of the estate.

The law prohibits persons lacking sufficient intellect from testifying under the dead man's rule because of their limited capacity to provide accurate testimony about the decedent's wishes.

Exceptions to the Dead Man's Rule in Texas

Like any rule, there are exceptions to the dead man's statute. In some cases, the trial court may allow a party to introduce a deceased person's oral statement into evidence if they can demonstrate that the statement is relevant and reliable.

This may entail providing additional evidence supporting the statement's accuracy and authenticity.

However, if a court excludes evidence from a civil case, it must be because it determines that the opposing party calls to introduce information to solely harass, embarrass, or gain a tactical advantage against the departed individual.

In such cases, the court may invoke other applicable rules of evidence to protect the integrity of the trial.

Who Cannot Testify in a Civil Case?

Who Cannot Testify in a Civil Case?

There are laws and rules in place to ensure that the testimony given in court is reliable and accurate and that only those who have personal knowledge of the facts at issue are permitted to testify.

  • Persons Lacking Sufficient Intellect

One group of individuals who cannot testify in a civil case involves children. Generally, a child's testimony is unreliable and, therefore, inadmissible. The court will examine the child's capacity to understand and remember the events in question, as well as their ability to communicate those events clearly and coherently.

If the court determines that the child lacks sufficient intellect to provide reliable testimony, their oral statement may be excluded.

  • Insane Persons

Another group of individuals who cannot testify in a civil case are mentally imbalanced individuals.

If a party is deemed insane during the events, their testimony may be excluded as unreliable, even if the opposing party calls for a challenge. The court will examine the person's mental state at the time of the events and their ability to remember and communicate those affairs.

Final Words

The Dead Man's Statute is a unique law that applies to many states, including Texas. While it can be complicated to navigate, the rule serves to protect the rights of deceased parties while ensuring that the court weighs all evidence with caution. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also answer questions like, "What is the Texas Survival statute?"

It also aims to ensure that only those with personal knowledge of the decedent's oral statement can testify according to the court's instruction.

As such, it is essential to have an experienced and knowledgeable legal team to navigate the applicable rules and maximize the chances of successful litigation.

With its dominating battle cry (We Go to War for You), Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can guide plaintiffs through the legal process and help them receive maximum compensation from the opposite party.


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