Thursday, September 22, 2022

Court Addresses Hearsay Within Hearsay Issues

Is that hearsay?

In response to a post-trial motion filed in the case of Huertas v. El Bochinche Restaurante, Oct. Term, No. 02851 (C.P. Phila. Co. 2022 Hill, J.), the court addressed hearsay issues that arose during the course of a premises liability trial.

According to the Opinion, the Plaintiff attended a party at a restaurant where she was allegedly attacked in a bathroom.

The Plaintiff was subsequently seen at an emergency room for a facial fracture and other injuries. The records from that visit indicate that the Plaintiff informed the treating physician that she was “punched in the face while walking down a street.”

The Plaintiff later visited a different hospital, stating there that she was injured in the restaurant.

The Plaintiff eventually brought a lawsuit against the restaurant for negligence.

As the case proceeded to trial, the Plaintiff had filed a Motion In Limine requesting the trial court to exclude any possible statements the Defendant would make regarding other claims the Plaintiff had filed.

As to the statements from the hospital records, the court held that the statements were properly admitted under several exceptions to the hearsay rule. 

First, under Pa.R.E. 803.4, hearsay statements “made for diagnoses or treatment" are allowed. The court found that the Plaintiff’s statements at the hospital clearly fell within this exception.

Also, the court referenced precedent holding that statements made by an opposing party are allowed, which was the case with the statements at issue in this matter.  More specifically, the Defendant was seeking to enter statements by the Plaintiff, who was the party opponent.

The court additionally held that the statement at issue was admissible under the business records exception in Rule 803.6. In this regard, the court found that the statement was made and recorded during a regularly conducted activity by the hospital, was recorded contemporaneously close to the time of the alleged incident, and was maintained during the normal course of business.

On a separate but related issue, the Plaintiff argued that the court erred at trial by denying her request to admit the statement by the Plaintiff at the second hospital visit that she had been injured in the restaurant.  The Plaintiff felt that she should have been allowed to introduce that statement in an effort to rehabilitate her testimony and credibility. However, the court clarified that the Defendant had not impeached the Plaintiff, but rather had offered their evidence as substantive evidence excluded from the rules of hearsay.

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

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Sept. 6, 2022).

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