Under Federal Rule of Evidence 802, hearsay evidence is generally not admissible in court. In preliminary injunction proceedings, however, the rules of evidence don’t necessarily apply. Here in the Fourth Circuit, courts relax evidentiary rules when faced with motions for preliminary injunctive relief, mostly due to practical considerations such as the exigent nature of the proceeding and the unavailability of a detailed factual record at the very outset of the case. There is some disagreement among federal circuit courts on this issue, but here in Virginia, “district courts may look to, and indeed in appropriate circumstances rely on, hearsay or other inadmissible evidence when deciding whether a preliminary injunction is warranted.” (See G.G. ex rel. Grimm v. Gloucester Cty. Sch. Bd., 822 F.3d 709, 725 (4th Cir. 2016), vacated on other grounds, 137 S. Ct. 1239 (2017)). Failure to consider hearsay evidence at preliminary injunction proceedings may even be deemed an abuse of discretion.
Relying on hearsay evidence is exactly what the district court did when it granted the plaintiff’s motion for a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction in the case of Edward D. Jones & Co. v. Samuel (Ed) Clyburn, Jr., a non-solicitation case filed in the Roanoke Division of the Western District of Virginia. Here’s what happened, according to the facts recited in the opinion: