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New York Court Discusses Exceptions to the Rule Against Hearsay in Medical Malpractice Cases

In medical malpractice cases, like all civil cases, hearsay testimony is inadmissible unless it falls under one of the enumerated exceptions. For example, under the business records exception to the hearsay rule, hospital records may be admissible in certain instances, despite the fact that they contain hearsay. Recently, a New York appellate court discussed when the business records exception to the rule against hearsay applies in hospital malpractice cases, in a case in which the plaintiff alleged her husband died as a result of malpractice. If you or a loved one suffered harm due to hospital malpractice, it is vital to retain a proficient Rochester hospital malpractice attorney to aid you in asserting your right to seek damages.

Facts Regarding the Plaintiff’s Husband’s Treatment

It is reported that the plaintiff’s husband went to the emergency room of the defendant hospital on June 1, 2008, where he was evaluated and diagnosed with pneumonia. The record states that the emergency room physician offered the husband hospitalization for intravenous antibiotics and fluids. The husband was discharged with oral antibiotics that day, however, and directed to follow up with his primary care physician. The physician testified at trial that he informed the husband his condition was serious and stated the husband left against medical advice, but the husband was not asked to sign an AMA form.

Allegedly, on June 4, 2009, the husband visited his primary care physician. Following an evaluation, the physician sent the husband to the hospital. In the second hospital, the emergency room records noted that the husband’s primary care physician stated that the husband signed an AMA form at the first hospital. Additionally, it stated that the husband advised the attending physician that he refused treatment at the first hospital and was subsequently discharged.

Reportedly, the husband died later that day. The plaintiff filed a malpractice lawsuit against the hospital and primary care physician, arguing they failed to properly treat the husband’s pneumonia. Prior to trial, the plaintiff filed a motion to excluded entries from the hospital records indicating that the husband signed an AMA form, and testimony regarding physician conversations with the husband, on the grounds that it was impermissible hearsay. The court denied the motion, with the exception of the records regarding the AMA form, which were precluded. The court later admitted testimony regarding the records, however. A jury found in favor of the defendants, and the plaintiff appealed, arguing the court erred in admitted impermissible hearsay.

Business Records Exception to the Rule Against Hearsay

Under New York law, a hearsay entry in a hospital record is admissible under the business records exception, if it is pertinent to the treatment or diagnosis of the patient. In the subject case, the court stated that although the entries in the records were relevant to the husband’s treatment and diagnosis, the defendants failed to provide certification or foundational testimony as required under the laws of civil procedure.

The court further explained that if an entry in a medical record is inconsistent with a party’s position, it is admissible as an admission, even if it is not related to treatment or diagnosis, if there is evidence connecting the party to the statement. In the subject case, the court found that the lower court erred in admitting the statement in the records regarding the AMA form as an admission against the husband, as the defendants failed to establish that the husband was the source of the statement. Based on the foregoing, the court ordered a new trial.

Consult a Knowledgeable Hospital Malpractice Attorney

If you suffered the loss of a loved one due to hospital malpractice it is essential to consult a knowledgeable Rochester hospital malpractice attorney to help you strive to achieve the best legal result possible under the facts of your case. The diligent hospital malpractice attorneys of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP Personal Injury Lawyers will work tirelessly to help you seek the full amount of compensation recoverable. We can be reached through the online form or at 585-653-7343 to set up a conference to discuss your legal needs.

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