Friday, September 3, 2021

Hearsay Exceptions Addressed in Context of Med Mal Case


In the case of Delguercio v. Tio, No. 19-CV-3604 (C.P. Lacka. Co. Aug. 19, 2021 Nealon, J.), Judge Terrence R. Nealon of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas denied a certain Defendants’ Motion In Limine to preclude hearsay testimony in a medical malpractice action.

According to the Opinion, the Defendant generally filed a Motion In Limine to preclude the Plaintiffs from introducing hearsay testimony at trial unless such testimony fell within one of the enumerated exceptions to the hearsay rule. The Plaintiff filed a response asserting that the testimony at issue was admissible under the hearsay exceptions set forth under Pa. R.E. 803(3) and (4).

This case involved a malpractice action under which the Plaintiff asserted that the Plaintiff allegedly received negligent treatment in the emergency room relative to a deep vein thrombosis condition and/or a stroke condition.

The disputed hearsay statements involve statements made by the Plaintiff’s husband to the attending physician as well as the statements contained in the Plaintiff’s husband’s deposition testimony regarding the Plaintiff’s symptoms and complaints during the course of her treatment. Some of the statements by the husband involved statements that the Plaintiff had made to her husband as to why she reported to the emergency room for the subject treatment.

After reviewing the law of hearsay and the relevant exceptions, Judge Nealon found that the statements by the Plaintiff’s husband were admissible pursuant to the hearsay exception under Pa. R.E. 803(4) which is entitled “Statement Made for Medical Diagnosis or Treatment.” 

The court noted that it was the longstanding law of Pennsylvania that the medical treatment exception to the hearsay rule provides that testimony repeating out-of-courts statements which were made for the purpose of receiving medical treatment are admissible as substantive evidence.  In order for such a statement to qualify for admission under the “medical treatment exception,” it must be made “for the purpose of receiving medical treatment” and be "necessary and proper for a diagnosis and treatment.” See Op. at 6.

The court found that the statements at issue made by the Plaintiff’s husband to the Plaintiff’s treating doctor were clearly made for and relevant to the Plaintiff’s diagnosis and treatment. The court noted that it was inconsequential that the pertinent medical history was provided by the husband rather than the Plaintiff herself, since statements need not be made by the incapacitated patient in order to be admissible pursuant to the medical treatment exception. The court also noted that there is no requirement of corroboration of the information provided before the offered statement is admissible. Nor is the admissibility of the evidence disqualified where the person offering the evidence is an interested party.

The court also found that the statements made by the Plaintiff’s husband regarding the Plaintiff’s complaints of pain, tingling, and other symptoms was admissible as a statement of her physical condition and pain at the time in question. The court noted that Pennsylvania Rule of Evidence No. 803(3) establishes a hearsay exception for any “statement of the declarant’s then-existing….emotional, sensory, or physical condition (such as mental feeling, pain, or bodily health)….”  See Op. at 7

The court noted that, in order to be admissible, such statements must overtly describe or relate to a mental, emotional, or physical condition that then exist and must be made contemporaneously with the mental or physical condition, regardless of when, why, or how the condition was caused or produced. Id. at 7-8.

After applying this law to the statements in question, the court found that additional statements were admissible as well.

As noted above, the Defendant’s pre-trial Motion In Limine in this medical malpractice action was denied.

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

Source of image:  Photo by Tingley Law Firm on Unsplash.com.

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