Don’t Believe Everything You Read (On the Web)– The SJC Weighs In On What A Reliable Online Source Is

While searching for something on the internet we all have a personal gauge as to how trustworthy a website is. Information learned from the website of a highly respected medical institution would likely fall on the trustworthy side of the scale. But does that mean that those same webpages can be used at trial? The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently provided some guidance. In Kace v. Liang, plaintiff’s counsel questioned an emergency room physician about two webpage printouts from the website of the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The Court stated that because the web pages did not “reference a particular author or authors, it was not possible for the plaintiff’s counsel to establish their reliability as required by the evidence rule.” The webpages, therefore, did not qualify as a “learned treatise,” which could be established as reliable because of presumed peer review. Instead, the Court likened the webpages to a journal or periodical, which are more continuously published and likely subject to less academic rigor. In doing so, the Court made it clear that it would look to the individual author of a given webpage, not the entity publishing or editing the site, no matter how reputable that entity might be.

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