Monday, February 8, 2021

Pennsylvania Superior Court Offers Lessons on Hearsay Exception (Statements Made for Medical Diagnosis and Treatment)

In the case of Adams v. Rising Son Med. Ctr., No. 2020 Pa. Super. 298 (Pa. Super. Dec. 29, 2020) (Op. by Bowes, J.), the court addressed the applicability of the medical treatment hearsay exception found under Pa. R.E. 803(4).

This matter arose out of a medical malpractice action. At issue was the Plaintiff’s argument that the trial court had erred in precluding the Plaintiff from testifying as to what the Plaintiff’s decedent told medical providers in the emergency room regarding her family history of deep vein thrombosis.  This case involved an allegation that the medical providers failed to diagnose the Plaintiff’s own deep vein thrombosis which allegedly caused or increased the decedent’s risk of death due to a pulmonary embolism.

While the Plaintiff conceded that such testimony was hearsay, they argued that the testimony by the Plaintiff regarding what her deceased family member had told the medical providers was admissible under the hearsay exception for statements made for purposes of diagnosis and treatment.

The Defendants argued at the trial court level that a statement made for purposes of medical treatment qualifies for the hearsay exception under Pa. R.E. 803(4) only if it is proffered by a healthcare provider.

The Superior Court disagreed. The Superior Court noted that there were only two (2) requirements for a hearsay statement to come within the exception set forth at Pa. R.E. 803(4). First, the declarant must take the statement for purposes of receiving medical treatment. Second, the statement must be necessary and proper for the diagnosis and treatment.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court found no legal support for the defense argument that only a healthcare provider can testify as to statements made for purposes of medical treatment or any requirement for corroboration before the proffered statement is admissible.

The Superior Court additionally reasoned that this exception to the hearsay rule was created because statements made for the purpose of receiving medical treatment are typically stated in circumstances where the reliability of the declarant’s out-of-court statement is inherently trustworthy and where there is little motive to fabricate any information.

In the end, the Superior Court found that the trial court erred in excluding such testimony and that the exclusion of this testimony was highly prejudicial to the Plaintiff.  As such, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled that the Plaintiff was granted a new trial.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Weekly Law (Jan. 12, 2021).

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