Saturday, February 20, 2010
Don't Deal In No Kind Of Hearsay: Pennsylvania Court Reverses Order Regarding Prisoner Under Residuum Rule
I have previously posted on this blog about the residuum rule, pursuant to which factual findings at an administrative hearing cannot be exclusively based on hearsay. In Pennsylvania, courts refer to this rule as the "Walker Rule" based upon the opinion of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania in Walker v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 367 A.2d 366 (Pa.Cmwlth. 1976), and in Speight v. Department of Corrections, application of this rule led to reversal of an order of the Department of Corrections.
In Speight, James Speight appealed from an order of the Department of Corrections requiring him to reimburse Pennsylvania in the amount of $5,979.85 assessed against his inmate account for costs stemming from his violation of established prison rules necessitating his hospitalization. Specifically,
On March 13, 2008, Speight was issued Misconduct No. A824777 for charges of possession or use of a dangerous or controlled substance, possession of contraband, and tattooing or other forms of self-mutilation. Specifically, he took approximately 10 seizure pills (Depakene) in front of a nurse and corrections officer during the med line on F Block. He had to be taken to the infirmary and then to an outside hospital for treatment due to his actions.
Speight thereafter pleaded guilty to charges connected with this incident and, at an administrative assessment hearing to determine the amount of the costs incurred to be deducted from his account,
The Department's witness, Leslie Wynn..., a Department accountant, presented three medical bills totaling $5,979.85. She stated that one bill was for the ambulance and the other two were from the hospital for various lab charges and the ICU. The bills were not authenticated by sworn affidavit of the record keeper for the ambulance company or the hospital, nor did any witnesses appear on their behalf.
After the hearing, the hearing examiner assessed Speight's account $5,979.85, prompting his appeal. During that appeal, "[t]he Department d[id] not contend that the medical bills were business records but instead argue[d] that the medical bills were properly admitted into evidence as unobjected-to hearsay." The problem for the Department in this regard was that these medical bills were the only pieces of evidence presented by it, meaning that its case was exclusively based upon hearsay. Accordingly, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania found that the hearing examiner's assessment was not properly supported under the Walker Rule and reversed the hearing examiner's determination.