Question: In Illinois, are documents otherwise admissible as business records under Rule 236(a) barred because the documents contain opinions?
Answer: Generally, no.
The foundational requirements for business records are found in Illinois Supreme Court Rule 236(a):
Any writing or record, whether in the form of any entry in a book or otherwise, made as a memorandum or record of any act, transaction, occurrence, or event, shall be admissible as evidence of the act, transaction, occurrence, or event, if made in the regular course of any business, and if it was the regular course of the business to make such a memorandum or record at the time of such an act, transaction, occurrence, or event or within a reasonable time thereafter. All other circumstances of the making of the writing or record, including lack of personal knowledge by the entrant or maker, may be shown to affect its weight, but shall not affect its admissibility. The term "business," as used in this rule, includes business, profession, occupation, and calling of every kind.
The rule itself contains no language excluding records that contain opinions. Illinois courts haven't imposed such limitations either. In a recent case, Troyan v. Reyes (3d Distr. 9/29/06), the Third District ruled that opinions contained in medical records could be published to the jury even without a sponsoring witness, since the medical records were established to be business records. The court commented:
Illinois courts have held that “Rule 236(a) does not bar the admission of business records because they contain opinions.” Birch, 139 Ill. App. 3d at 407, 487 N.E.2d at 806 (safety study that contained opinions was admissible business record); see also Amos v. Norfolk & Western Ry. Co., 191 Ill. App. 3d 637, 646, 548 N.E.2d 96, 102 (1989) (accident reports containing conclusions and opinions fall within business records exception); People ex rel. Schacht v. Main Insurance Co., 122 Ill. App. 3d 826, 833, 462 N.E.2d 670, 675 (1984) (financial documents containing opinions were proper business records).
For more about court's ruling in the Troyan case, see my previous post, "Admissibility of Medical Records as Business Records in Illinois."