Riggs v. Tayloe,
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22 U.S. 483 (1824)
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U.S. Supreme Court
Riggs v. Tayloe, 22 U.S. 483 (1824)
Riggs v. Tayloe
22 U.S. 483
If a party intend to use a written instrument in evidence, he must produce the original, if in his possession. But if it is in the possession of the other party, who refuses to produce it after notice, or if the original is lost or destroyed, secondary evidence (being the best which the nature of the case allows) will be admitted.
The party in such case may read a counterpart, or, if there is no counterpart, an examined copy, or, if no such copy, may give parol evidence of the contents.
Where a writing has been voluntarily destroyed for fraudulent purposes or to create an excuse for its nonproduction, secondary evidence of its contents is not admissible. But where the destruction or loss (although voluntary) happens through mistake or accident, such evidence will be admitted.