EvidenceProf Blog

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

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Doctor, Doctor, Give Me The News: Court Of Appeals Of NY Finds Statements By Police/Family In Hospital Record Admissible

In People v. Ortega, 15 N.Y.3d 210 (2010), the Court of Appeals of New York held that "hearsay statements by crime victims contained in a hospital record that pertain to medical diagnosis and treatment of the victim" are admissible under the exception to the rule against hearsay for business records and/or statements made for purposes of diagnosis or treatment. In Dolan v. Joan W., 2012 WL 108362 (2012), the Court of Appeals of New York had to answer the follow-up question of whether statements by relatives or law enforcement personnel should also be admissible under the exception in hearings pursuant to Article 9 of the Mental Hygiene Law.

In Dolan, Joan W. challenged the proposed continuation of a court-ordered treatment plan for her. During her Article 9 hearing, Joan W.'s attorney

objected to hearsay statements contained in various records in the hospital record which were attributable (1) to respondent's son, who allegedly stated in the Syosset emergency room that his mother wanted to hurt herself and that her family found her in an intoxicated state; (2) to respondent's son, who claimed to the emergency ambulance personnel that the respondent was suicidal; (3) to respondent's son, which states in the emergency department record "suicidal ideation as per family...patient going through crisis. Patient denies [suicidal ideation];" (4) to Central Nassau Guidance, in Nassau University Medical Center's progress notes, “that patient only kept her intake appointment and failed to show up for her subsequent medication appointment;” and (5) to Brian Shannon, respondent's caseworker, that "patient has been non-compliant with meds as evidenced from her recent callings to the caseworker, always verbalizing paranoid ideation associated with family. Patient has been unstable, angry on the phone."

Joan W. renewed these objections on appeal, but the Court of Appeals of New York found that these statements were properly admitted. According to the court,

 all of these statements in the hospital record are admissible evidence, under the business record exception to the hearsay rule, to support an AOT order since the statements were relevant for the hospital to diagnose, treatment and ultimately develop a discharge plan for the respondent....Accordingly, the objections by the respondents to the admissibility of these statements into evidence is overruled, and the aforesaid statements are deemed to be admitted into evidence.

I agree with this conclusion at the hearsay level. Also, I'm assuming that an Article 9 hearing is not criminal in nature, meaning that there would be ne Confrontation Clause problem.



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