Brief Fact Summary. While the plaintiff, Bonnie Lira (the “plaintiff”), was at the defendant hospital, Albert Einstein Medical Center (the “defendant”), to receive services associated with symptoms she had presented with, in conjunction with her diagnosis as having Crohn’s Disease, two doctors improperly inserted a suction tube into her trachea, causing permanent injury. During trial, statements by the plaintiff’s husband that a non-testifying doctor had asked the plaintiff “who had butchered her” resulted in a successful motion by defense for a new trial. Plaintiffs appealed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Expressions of medical opinion are not generally admissible under an exception to the hearsay rule because the doctor needs to be available for cross examination as to that opinion.
Our standard of review in cases involving the admission of expert testimony is broad: Generally speaking, the admission of expert testimony is a matter left largely to the discretion of the trial court, and its rulings thereon will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Whether the doctor that testified as to the standard of care in the community was qualified to do so?
Whether the testimony of the deceased’s husband as to the statement of a doctor not testifying at trial was improperly admitted hearsay?
Held. Yes. While the doctor was a neurologist, he did have some training and experience in throat related issues, and was qualified to testify to the standard of care in the medical community regarding them.
Yes. It was not admissible as either a present sense impression or excited utterance exception to the hearsay rule.
Discussion. Medical opinion may not be admitted under either an excited utterance or present sense impression to the hearsay rule, because the statements would have been made as a result of medical training and expertise. A doctor who is trained in throat ailments will not be overcome with emotion when he comes across one. Moreover, medical opinion is of special importance, and the doctor giving it must be available for cross examination regarding it.