309 N.Y. 283 (1995).
In order for hospital records to be admissible under the business records exception to the hearsay rule, they must reflect acts, occurrences or events that relate to diagnosis, prognosis or treatment or are otherwise helpful to an understanding of the medical or surgical aspects of the particular patient’s hospitalization and, where details of how a particular injury occurred are not useful for purposes of medical diagnosis or treatment, they are not considered to have been recorded in the regular course of the hospital’s business and do not fall under the business records exception.
Plaintiff was injured when he was struck by Defendant’s car. While the parties agreed that the vehicle that struck Plaintiff was Defendant’s, they disagreed over how the accident happened. Defendant insisted that the vehicle in back of him struck his car first and forced him to hit Plaintiff. Defendant attempted to introduce into evidence a note made in the hospital’s file by Plaintiff’s treating physician reflecting Plaintiff’s statement to the physician that a vehicle behind Defendant’s car hit Defendant who then struck Plaintiff. Defendant argued that the document fell under the business records exception to the hearsay rule.
The court held that the hospital record was inadmissible. The court reasoned that a hospital record is admissible under the business records exception only if it was made in the regular course of the hospital’s business, and it was the regular course of hospital to make such record in carrying out its business.
A hospital’s business is to diagnose and treat patients. While Plaintiff’s statement to the physician that he was struck by a car is relevant to diagnose and treat his injuries, a statement regarding how the accident occurred was not related to the diagnosis or treatment of Plaintiff and, therefore, the physician’s note at issue did not fall under the business records exception. The court explained:
In some instances, perhaps, the patient’s explanation as to how he was hurt may be helpful to an understanding of the medical aspects of his case; it might, for instance, assist the doctors if they were to know that the injured man had been struck by an automobile. However, whether the patient was hit by car A or car B, by car A under its own power or propelled forward by car B, or whether the injuries were caused by the negligence of the defendant or of another, cannot possibly bear on diagnosis or aid in determining treatment. That being so, entries of this sort, purporting to give particulars of the accident, which serve no medical purpose, may not be regarded as having been made in the regular course of the hospital’s business.
Note: Defendant could have called the treating physician to testify regarding Plaintiff’s statement about the cause of the accident and such statement likely would have been admissible under the admission by a party-opponent exception to the hearsay rule.