Product failures are often investigated by official agencies. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) will often report on automobile defects as well as traffic accidents; the National Transportation Safety Board “NTSB” investigates aviation accidents, and the Coast Guard investigates maritime disasters.
Such reports are usually more extensive than a privately funded investigation. Governmental reports are often heavily relied upon as the basis of a products liability action or defense in those jurisdictions that permit such reports in evidence. In federal cases, such reports are admissible pursuant to FRE 803(8) “Public Records and Reports.” This section makes admissible all records, reports and data in any form by any public officer or agency unless the source of information indicates lack of trustworthiness. Lawyers often make these reports the lynchpin of their entire case. You can imagine the chagrin of any trial lawyer when, on the eve of trial, a motion in limine is granted excluding the report based on untrustworthiness.
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