Court Expands the Admissibility of Hearsay Medical Records

Hearsay is probably the best known trial objection by the general public. Hearsay is the subject of courtroom dramas, and cited by arguments among laypeople. Now, a recent Maryland injury case has expanded the kind of records that can be admitted in a Maryland injury trial, even if the records are otherwise hearsay.

Defendant’s Expert Uses Hearsay Medical Records

The case deals with issues that are common to Maryland injury cases – whether the injury that the victim sustained is actually caused by the accident or by something else. In this case, the Defense argued that a longstanding pre-existing injury to the victim’s shoulder was the culprit.

The Defense argued through experts that had the victim’s shoulder been injured in the accident, she would have been in immediate, acute pain. To prove that she was not, the Defendant sought to admit the victim’s medical records from just after the accident, which showed that she in fact did not make any complaint about pain to her shoulder. It was revealed at trial that the victim did not complain about her shoulder or have surgery on her shoulder until two years after the accident.

The Defendant’s opinion that the shoulder injury was not caused by the accident was given by experts based on their review of the medical records, which the Defendant sought to admit as evidence. The Plaintiff objected that the records were hearsay, but the Court allowed them in, based on an exclusion to hearsay which allows in evidence that experts rely on in forming their opinions.

The victim won, but was awarded a very small verdict, and appealed, alleging that allowing in the medical records as evidence was error.

Court Expands Hearsay Exception

The appellate court disagreed with the victim, finding the entry of the records as evidence to be correct. The Court noted that Maryland’s hearsay law allows documents to be “disclosed to the jury” if records are relied on by the expert, and are trustworthy, not privileged, relied on by the expert, and needed to explain the expert testimony.

What does “disclosed to the jury” mean? Does it mean completely admitted as evidence, or just shown to the jury, or something else? The Court, looking at the Federal Rules of Evidence, said that it meant that the documents could be fully admitted, but that in some situations, they may be admitted with a limiting instruction (a special instruction that limits how a jury considers evidence, or what the evidence is used for).

Specifically, the Court noted that the limiting instruction should generally advise the jury that they are to use the evidence to weigh and evaluate the expert’s testimony—but not use the evidence as substantive evidence to determine any other factual issue in the case.

Maryland injury attorneys must now be mindful that if there are medical records that work against their client or do not contain favorable information, that it will be difficult to exclude them on the basis of hearsay.

Make sure that your rights are protected during any trial to recover damages for injuries suffered in an accident. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss obtaining recovery for injuries you have sustained.