Federal Rules of Evidence – Rule 408 (through March 1, 2020)
Can you ever use compromise negotiation conduct and statements to prove or attack claim validity and value, or to impeach by inconsistency and contradiction?
Only in criminal cases when the negotiations relate to a claim by a public office exercising regulatory or enforcement authority. But you can use compromise negotiation conduct and statements to prove other stuff, like bias or that there was no undue delay.
(a) Prohibited Uses. Evidence of the following is not admissible — on behalf of any party — either to prove or disprove the validity or amount of a disputed claim or to impeach by a prior inconsistent statement or a contradiction:
(1) furnishing, promising, or offering — or accepting, promising to accept, or offering to accept — a valuable consideration in compromising or attempting to compromise the claim; and
(2) conduct or a statement made during compromise negotiations about the claim — except when offered in a criminal case and when the negotiations related to a claim by a public office in the exercise of its regulatory, investigative, or enforcement authority.
(b) Exceptions. The court may admit this evidence for another purpose, such as proving a witness’s bias or prejudice, negating a contention of undue delay, or proving an effort to obstruct a criminal investigation or prosecution.
Selected Committee Notes
As a matter of general agreement, evidence of an offer-to compromise a claim is not receivable in evidence as an admission of, as the case may be, the validity or invalidity of the claim. As with evidence of subsequent remedial measures, dealt with in Rule 407, exclusion may be based on two grounds. (1) The evidence is irrelevant, since the offer may be motivated by a desire for peace rather than from any concession of weakness of position. The validity of this position will vary as the amount of the offer varies in relation to the size of the claim and may also be influenced by other circumstances. (2) a more consistently impressive ground is promotion of the public policy favoring the compromise and settlement of disputes. McCormick §§76, 251. While the rule is ordinarily phrased in terms of offers of compromise, it is apparent that a similar attitude must be taken with respect to completed compromises when offered against a party thereto. This latter situation will not, of course, ordinarily occur except when a party to the present litigation has compromised with a third person.
The same policy underlies the provision of Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that evidence of an unaccepted offer of judgment is not admissible except in a proceeding to determine costs.
The practical value of the common law rule has been greatly diminished by its inapplicability to admissions of fact, even though made in the course of compromise negotiations, unless hypothetical, stated to be “without prejudice,” or so connected with the offer as to be inseparable from it. McCormick §251, pp. 540–541. An inevitable effect is to inhibit freedom of communication with respect to compromise, even among lawyers. Another effect is the generation of controversy over whether a given statement falls within or without the protected area. These considerations account for the expansion of the rule herewith to include evidence of conduct or statements made in compromise negotiations, as well as the offer or completed compromise itself. For similar provisions see California Evidence Code §§1152, 1154.
The policy considerations which underlie the rule do not come into play when the effort is to induce a creditor to settle an admittedly due amount for a lessor sum. McCormick §251, p. 540. Hence the rule requires that the claim be disputed as to either validity or amount.
The final sentence of the rule serves to point out some limitations upon its applicability. Since the rule excludes only when the purpose is proving the validity or invalidity of the claim or its amount, an offer for another purpose is not within the rule. The illustrative situations mentioned in the rule are supported by the authorities. As to proving bias or prejudice of a witness, see Annot., 161 A.L.R. 395, contra, Fenberg v. Rosenthal, 348 Ill. App. 510, 109 N.E.2d 402 (1952), and negativing a contention of lack of due diligence in presenting a claim, 4 Wigmore §1061. An effort to “buy off” the prosecution or a prosecuting witness in a criminal case is not within the policy of the rule of exclusion. McCormick §251, p. 542.
For other rules of similar import, see Uniform Rules 52 and 53; California Evidence Code §1152, 1154; Kansas Code of Civil Procedure §§60–452, 60–453; New Jersey Evidence Rules 52 and 53.
Key Rules (MBE/MEE)
- FRE 103 – Evidence Rulings
- FRE 105 – Limiting How Evidence may be Used
- FRE 106 – Completeness Rule
- FRE 201 – Judicial Notice
- FRE 301 – Presumptions
- FRE 401 – Relevance
- FRE 402 – Irrelevant = Inadmissible
- FRE 403 – Excluding the Prejudicial, Confusing, etc.
- FRE 404 – Character Evidence
- FRE 405 – Proving Character
- FRE 406 – Habit, Routine
- FRE 407 – Subsequent Remedial Measures
- FRE 408 – Compromise Negotiations
- FRE 409 – Offers to Pay Expenses
- FRE 410 – Pleas, Related Statements
- FRE 411 – Liability Insurance
- FRE 412 – Victim’s Sexual Predisposition
- FRE 413, 414, 415 – Other Sex-Related Rules
- FRE 502 – Attorney-Client Privilege, Work-Product Doctrine
- FRE 601 – Witness Competency
- FRE 602 – Personal Knowledge
- FRE 605 – Judge as Witness
- FRE 606 – Juror as Witness
- FRE 607 – Impeachment
- FRE 608 – Honest, Dishonest Character
- FRE 609 – Evidence of Criminal Conviction
- FRE 610 – Religious Beliefs
- FRE 611 – Mode, Order of Evidence
- FRE 612 – Recollection Refreshed
- FRE 613 – Prior Statements
- FRE 614 – Court Witness Examination
- FRE 615 – Excluding Witnesses
- FRE 701 – Non-Expert Opinion
- FRE 702 – Expert Opinion
- FRE 703 – Bases of Expert Opinion
- FRE 704 – Ultimate Issue
- FRE 705 – Disclosing Underlying Data
- FRE 801 – Hearsay Defined
- FRE 802 – Rule Against Hearsay
- FRE 803 – Strong Hearsay Exceptions
- FRE 804 – Weak Hearsay Exceptions
- FRE 805 – Double Hearsay
- FRE 806 – Impeaching Hearsay Declarants
- FRE 807 – Residual Hearsay Exception
- FRE 901 – Authentication, Identification
- FRE 902 – Self-Authenticating Evidence
- FRE 1001 – Original Defined
- FRE 1002 – Original Sometimes Required
- FRE 1003 – When Copies Generally Admissible
- FRE 1004 – Other Times Admissible
- FRE 1005 – Public Record Copies Often Admissible
- FRE 1006 – Summaries
- FRE 1007 – Acknowledged Content
- FRE 1008 – Functions of Court, Jury
- FRE 1101 – Rules’ Applicability