Was Evidence “Admitted” During Zoom Hearing?

Kazi v. Sohail
Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-20-00789-CV (October 28, 2021)
Justices Molberg, Goldstein (Opinion available here), and Smith
        After conducting a hearing via Zoom, the trial court entered a temporary injunction against Defendants, and Defendants appealed, arguing there was no evidence to support the order. They contended that the Plaintiff had presented no live witnesses and that none of the affidavits or exhibits referred to during the hearing were actually admitted into evidence.

        The Dallas Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed the temporary injunction. The trial court’s emergency standing order in effect at the time of the Zoom hearing—prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic—encouraged litigants to present evidence through affidavits, declarations, and depositions rather than through live testimony, when possible. The order further provided that parties wishing to admit exhibits or other evidence must electronically deliver the same to the court reporter, court coordinator, and opposing counsel prior to the hearing. Plaintiff’s counsel complied with that order and, during the hearing, referred to the evidence that was “put on the record” and stated he would consider such evidence “part of the record unless any objections arise.” Defendants’ counsel did not object to the evidence being “put on the record” and did not object to Plaintiff’s counsel referring to the evidence throughout the hearing. In the temporary injunction order, the trial court referred to the “evidence presented” during the hearing and stated that Plaintiff had “offered evidence” in support of his position.

The Court of Appeals held that, even though the trial court did not use “magic words” admitting Plaintiff’s affidavits and other electronic submissions into evidence, it was clear from the record that the trial court considered the electronically submitted evidence in determining whether to grant the temporary injunction. Under those circumstances, the Court concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in granting a temporary injunction based on the electronically submitted evidence.
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