The Dead Man’s Statute in New York: An Overview

SilencedThe Dead Man’s Statute, formally known as the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR) Section 4519, is a unique and significant aspect of New York’s legal landscape. Designed to protect the interests of deceased individuals and their estates from fraudulent claims, the statute has evolved over time to address contemporary legal challenges. This article aims to provide an overview of the Dead Man’s Statute in New York, its purpose, scope, exceptions, and implications for legal practitioners and litigants.

The Purpose of the Dead Man’s Statute

The Dead Man’s Statute was enacted to guard against perjury and untrustworthy testimony in cases where a deceased individual’s interests are at stake. It prevents interested parties from testifying about their conversations or transactions with the decedent, based on the premise that the deceased party cannot refute or corroborate the testimony. By restricting the admissibility of certain evidence, the statute aims to safeguard the integrity of the judicial process and protect the decedent’s estate from fraudulent claims.

Scope and Applicability

The Dead Man’s Statute applies to civil cases in New York where a party or witness has a direct, immediate, and substantial pecuniary interest in the outcome of the litigation. These cases typically involve the decedent’s estate, trusts, or claims arising from contracts or property transactions. In these situations, the statute bars the interested party from testifying about:

  • Personal transactions or communications with the decedent;
  • Occurrences taking place in the presence of the decedent; and
  • Matters to which the decedent was a party or witness.

Exceptions to the Rule

Like any legal rule, the Dead Man’s Statute has its exceptions. Certain circumstances allow the interested party to testify despite the general prohibition:

  1. Waiver by the estate: If the estate’s representative chooses to waive the protection of the statute, the interested party may testify.
  2. Testimony offered in opposition: If testimony is offered in opposition to the interested party’s own interests, it is admissible.
  3. Independent evidence: If independent evidence corroborates the interested party’s testimony, it may be admitted.
  4. Survival actions: The statute does not apply to survival actions, where the claim or cause of action is based on the decedent’s own injuries, pain, and suffering.

Implications for Legal Practitioners and Litigants

Understanding the Dead Man’s Statute is essential for legal practitioners and litigants in New York. To avoid potential evidentiary pitfalls, attorneys must carefully consider the applicability of the statute and its exceptions when preparing their cases. They should also be aware of the potential consequences of waiving the statute’s protection and be prepared to develop alternative strategies for presenting evidence.

For litigants, the statute highlights the importance of documentation and independent evidence in situations involving transactions or communications with deceased individuals.  By ensuring that essential information is preserved in writing and corroborated by reliable sources, litigants can better protect their interests and navigate the legal complexities surrounding the Dead Man’s Statute.


The Dead Man’s Statute in New York serves an important function in protecting the interests of deceased individuals and their estates. By understanding its purpose, scope, and exceptions, legal practitioners and litigants can more effectively navigate the complexities of civil litigation involving decedents. Ultimately, the statute underscores the importance of reliable evidence and careful preparation in ensuring the integrity and fairness of the judicial process.

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