EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Socialized Medicine: Connecticut Court Finds Medical Diagnosis/Treatment Exception Applies To Statements Made To Social Workers Acting Within Chain Of Medical Care

The recent opinion of the Appellate Court of Connecticut in State v. Juan V., 109 Conn.App. 431 (Conn.App. 2008), reveals that the medical diagnosis/treatment exception to the rule against hearsay applies to statements made to social workers "acting within the chain of medical care."  In Juan V., the defendant was convicted of sexual assault in the first degree and risk of injury to a child in connection with sexual acts he allegedly committed against his four year-old granddaughter.  At trial, "a significant amount of testimony was provided through the admission of [a] videotaped diagnostic and forensic interview that was conducted at the children's advocacy center at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center....after [the alleged victim] complained about the sexual assault."

On appeal, the defendant claimed that the trial court improperly admitted this videotape testimony pursuant to Section 8-3(5) of the Connecticut Code of Evidence, which contains an exception to the hearsay rule for "[a] statement made for purposes of obtaining medical treatment or advice pertaining thereto and describing medical history or past or present symptoms, pain, or sensations, or the inception or general character of the cause or external source thereof, insofar as reasonably pertinent to the medical treatment or advice."

The Appellate Court of Connecticut disagreed, finding that the alleged victim's statements were made to a social worker, who thereafter made recommendations to the alleged victim's family concerning her future care and provided details of the interview for the examining pediatrician.  Based upon this latter fact, the court found that the medical diagnosis/treatment exception applied because "the medical treatment exception is not limited to physicians and has been extended to include social workers, as long as the social worker is found to have been 'acting within the chain of medical care....'"  I agree with the Court's ruling because a statement made to a social working who was acting in the chain of medical care was obviously "made for the purposes of obtaining medical treatment or advice...."

In fact, I would take it a step further and say that a statement made to a social worker (or someone equivalent) is admissible under the medical diagnosis/treatment exception as long as the declarant thinks that the social worker is acting within the chain of medical care.  The medical diagnosis/ treatment exception looks at the purpose(s) of the declarant, and thus it would seem to me that as long as the declarant thinks that the social worker is acting within the chain of medical care, his statements should be admissible, even if the declarant is mistaken.  I'm not sure, however, whether the courts would agree with me on this point.   

-CM

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