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Doctor’s Statements Are Admissible To Show Effect on Patient’s Mental Attitude

by Holliday Karatinos Law Firm, PLLC, posted in Florida Case Law
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During trial, a plaintiff may testify about what the treating doctor told her to show the effect on the plaintiff’s mental attitude. Statements made by the doctor to the plaintiff are considered “non-hearsay” because the out of court statement made to the patient is not offered to prove the true of its contents. Rather, the statements made by the doctor are received and considered by the jury only for the purpose of demonstrating “the state of mind” of the witness as she received the information from the doctor.

In Brown v. Coca-Cola Bottling, Inc., 344 P. 2d 207 (Wash. 1959), the court held that the words of Dr. Evans were not offered to prove their truth or falsity (i.e., as to whether the plaintiff would have to undergo a major operation), but merely to establish the state of mind of the plaintiff which resulted from the doctor’s statement to him. Therefore, the plaintiff may testify at trial about what the treating doctor told him about the need for future surgery.

In,Ferrara v. Galluchio, 176 N.Y.S. 2d 249 (1958), the Court allowed plaintiff to testify about statements made by the treating doctor indicating that the plaintiff might develop cancer in the future to show plaintiff’s resulting anxiety. The out of court statements of a treating physician to a plaintiff may be offered to explain plaintiff’s mental anguish, anxiety and loss of enjoyment of life.

In a slip and fall case in Florida, the injured plaintiff was permitted to testify, over the defendant’s objection, about statements made by her doctor about the future problems and limitations she would experience because of the accident. The plaintiff explained to the jury that her doctor told her that she would have to live with her injury and to be careful never to strain herself. 194th Street Hotel Corporation v. Hopf, 383 So. 2d 739 (Fla. 3d DCA 1980). “It is well settled that evidence of an out-of-court statement to show its effect upon the mental attitude of the person who hears it is properly admissible.” Id. In this slip and fall case, the court held that the doctor’s statements to the plaintiff were obviously pertinent to the plaintiff’s damage claims that her actions were restricted because of a reasonable belief that she must avoid future physical stress. Therefore, the court held that it was perfectly proper for the jury to know one of the bases for the plaintiff’s concern never to strain herself.

In an Orange County, Florida medical malpractice case, the court in Hartsfield v. Orlando Regional Medical Center, Inc., 522 So. 2d 66 (Fla. 5th DCA 1988) held that the plaintiff “should have been allowed to explain to the jury why she had not yet arranged for plastic surgery for her son.” The plaintiff’s “statement that doctors told her to wait for plastic surgery until the boy was five or six years was excluded on hearsay grounds. However, the statement regarding the appropriate time for surgery was offered to show its effect on the [plaintiff] and not for the truth of the matter contained in the statement. Accordingly, it was not hearsay and should not have been excluded.”

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