The Delaware Superior Court recently issued a useful letter opinion addressing the admissibility of out of court statements. Plaintiffs moved in limine, in the case of Rochester v. Reyes, M.D., et al., to determine the admissibility of two key pieces of evidence in a medical malpractice case, where Robert Rochester (the “Decedent”) ultimately died of a pulmonary embolism only 18 short hours after leaving the Defendants’ office.
The first pieces of evidence Plaintiffs attempted to admit involved out of court statements allegedly made by Christiana Care Health System agents instructing the Decedent to stop his Coumadin regimen. Defendants opposed the motion on hearsay grounds, arguing that the statements were being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. The Plaintiffs responded by arguing that the statements were being offered to prove the effect on the listener, namely that the Decedent stopped taking Coumadin during the critical period because of the statements. The court indicated that nonhearsay statements involving the effect on the listener generally have an impermissible hearsay facet as well as a permissible nonhearsay facet and will be admitted into evidence with the proper limiting instruction in accordance with DRE 403 to avoid unfair prejudice. Therefore, the Court allowed two statements made in the Decedent’s presence, passing DRE 403, and disallowed one statement made outside the Decedent’s presence, based on the substantial risk of confusing the issues and unfairly prejudicing the Defendants.
The second piece of evidence was a chart, offered by Defendants, which the Plaintiffs sought to exclude on relevancy grounds. The chart depicts the Decedent’s INR levels for the five-years that he was treated under Defendants’ care. INR levels indicate whether the Coumadin dosage is set to the proper amount. Plaintiffs’ position is that the data the chart summarizes is irrelevant, based on both Defendants’ experts who testified in depositions that a reasonable doctor would not have been influenced by the INR results. The Court, however, concluded that this argument goes to the weight the jury should afford the evidence, not the underlying admissibility of the evidence. Also, under DRE 403, the court found the probative value of the charts to be more compelling than the little prejudice the evidence may cause.