October 20, 2015
The Mississippi Supreme Court recently affirmed a jury verdict in favor of Dr. Heather North and her clinic. The Plaintiff claimed Dr. North failed to timely diagnose her with vasculitis. She alleged the doctor’s delay caused her to lose her right leg below the knee and part of her left foot. More detailed facts can be found by clicking here.
On appeal the Plaintiff claimed the lower court erred in admitting into evidence a statement from another physician to whom Dr. North had referred the patient-plaintiff for a second opinion. That physician wrote a report in which he stated the Plaintiff “has been treated and evaluated extremely well by Dr. North and at this time was strongly encouraged to maintain follow-up with her.” The Plaintiff argued on appeal Boulware’s statement was inadmissible hearsay not subject to any exception, and alternatively should have been excluded under M.R.E. 403 since the statement’s prejudice to the Plaintiff substantially outweighed its probative value.
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court held Boulware’s statement was an exception to hearsay both as a statement made for purposes of promoting medical treatment (MRE 803(4)) and as a business record (MRE 803(6)). The majority also held the statement was properly admitted under MRE 403.
In a sharp dissent, four justices agreed Boulware’s statement qualified as an exception to hearsay as a business record (MRE 803(6)). However, they would have excluded his statement because its probative value was minimal, while its prejudice to the Plaintffs was substantial.
Stephen Burrow and Jimmy Heidelberg represented Dr. North in the appeal. Click Marie v. North to read the opinion.