In a Civil Trial, how do courts handle scenarios when evidences presented are denied (by plaintiff/defendent) as forged, tampered, or claims that 'I did not sign it' or 'That is not me'?

3 Answers 3


Just like every other contested assertion

They hear the testimony (evidence-in-chief, cross-examination, redirect), look at whatever physical evidence and submissions on the law that the party wishes to make. The other party will do the same. They weigh the evidence including such vital considerations as to whether they think one party or the other or both are full of shit and, if the evidence is such that the party has proved their assertion on the balance of probabilities, it is now a fact which bears on the judgement.

  • 14
    @DVK: The usual term is "not credible." But if you're sufficiently not-credible, the judge may scold you for it in the introduction or synopsis, because cases with poor evidence on both sides are much more expensive/complicated to adjudicate.
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 20:23
  • I seemed to want to think that documents are considered legitimate until proven otherwise or in other words the burden of proof is on the party claiming illegitimacy? Is this true?
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 21:13
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    @NeilMeyer: If I go into court with a handwritten piece of paper that says (e.g.) I own your house, and no other supporting evidence whatsoever, do you really think we're going to have to litigate adverse possession w.r.t. how long you've been living there? It wouldn't get that far.
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 21:17
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    When I say legitimacy it would mean in fact as it was written by you, not that is content is true.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 21:21
  • @DVK I beleive that the formal term is plena stercore. Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 22:24

It is not unusual for there to be expert witnesses (potentially on both sides with opposite conclusions) on the subject of handwriting analysis testifying on matters like this. They will go over known samples of the person's handwriting, and compare small bits of the writing to what is present in the document in question.

  • Also how would you prove the sample was legit?
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 21:15
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    @NeilMeyer You don't have to "prove" anything in a civil trial. You just have to convince the decision-makers (judge, jury, arbitrators, etc) that on the balance of probability you are a better liar than your opponent (/irony). This is completely different from a criminal trial.
    – alephzero
    Commented Aug 21, 2021 at 0:09
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    @alephzero : This is not correct. Proof in a civil trial is not 'beyond a reasonable doubt' but by 'the preponderance of the evidence.' It is a different standard (explained by different judges in different ways) but it is a standard nonetheless. The plaintiff in a civil case must meet that burden of proof.
    – user26732
    Commented Aug 21, 2021 at 9:15
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    An expert witness is not helpful in a case of what is called fraud in the factum. A signature page bearing my authentic signature can be removed from one document and added to another. The expert witness was not present at the execution and so cannot testify to the circumstances. In such a case, the authenticity of the signature is not an issue, but execution of the document at issue would be.
    – user26732
    Commented Aug 21, 2021 at 9:31
  • How do they check Emails? Most communications are done through email nowadays. An incumbent can deny he owns the email address Commented Aug 24, 2021 at 0:13

Keep in mind that prior to trial, documents will be the subject of written interrogatories, requests to admit, depositions, summary judgment and motions in limine. If it is alleged that a document which purportedly was signed by me in Denver on January 1, and it is undisputed that I was in Shanghai on that date, a motion in limine to prevent the document from being used or reference at trial would lie.

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