Dead Man's Statute Law & Legal Definition


A Dead Man's Statute is a state law, that varies by state, prohibiting testimony from an interested witness in respect to conversations or transactions with the deceased. There is no federal Dead Man’s Statute. Such statutes aim to prevent false testimony from witnesses that is unable to be refuted by the deceased or an agent of the deceased.

At one time, each state had some form of Dead Man’s Statute. Currently, twelve states have statutes that act as an absolute bar that prohibit testimony from an interested witness in respect to conversations or transactions with the deceased. Other states have limited Dead Man’s Statutes, that prohibit the party from testifying about oral communications with the deceased, but allow testimony regarding transactions with the deceased. Several states prohibit testimony unless there is other corroborative evidence. Finally, several states have actually repealed their previous Dead Man’s Statute.

The following is an example of North Carolina's Dead Man's statute:

"(c) Disqualification of interested persons. – Upon the trial of an action, or the hearing upon the merits of a special proceeding, a party or a person interested in the event, or a person from, through or under whom such a party or interested person derives his interest or title by assignment or otherwise, shall not be examined as a witness in his own behalf or interest, or in behalf of the party succeeding to his title or interest, against the executor, administrator or survivor of a deceased person, or the committee of a lunatic, or a person deriving his title or interest from, through or under a deceased person or lunatic, by assignment or otherwise, concerning any oral communication between the witness and the deceased person or lunatic. However, this subdivision shall not apply when:

(1) The executor, administrator, survivor, committee or person so deriving title or interest is examined in his own behalf regarding the subject matter of the oral communication.

(2) The testimony of the lunatic or deceased person is given in evidence concerning the same transaction or communication.

(3) Evidence of the subject matter of the oral communication is offered by the executor, administrator, survivor, committee or person so deriving title or interest.

Nothing in this subdivision shall preclude testimony as to the identity of the operator of a motor vehicle in any case. (1983, c. 701, s. 1.)"