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Justices disagree about evidence issue

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Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard didn't agree with his colleagues' decision that a defendant couldn't introduce evidence to dispute the judgment of an injured plaintiff's medical providers in choosing certain treatment.

In his concurring-in-result opinion, the chief justice believed the holding that a responding party is barred from challenging whether bills submitted in accordance with Evidence Rule 413 actually reflect reasonable and necessary treatment will create issues when ruling whether the expenses were reasonable and necessary.

"... the breadth of today's ruling will lead future judges and juries to work injustices at the very moment when judgment is most needed to hold to account providers at the edge of reasonably necessary treatment, or beyond it," he wrote to explain why he declined to join in the "Sibbing rule" created by the other justices.

In Eric P. Sibbing v. Amanda N. Cave, No. 49S02-0906-CV-275, Eric Sibbing argued that the trial court erred in allowing Amanda Cave to testify about what she was told by her treating physician and her own beliefs on the cause of her pain; and by excluding medical-necessity evidence from Sibbing's expert witness. Sibbing rear ended Cave's car, injuring her. She sought treatment first from Dr. Muhammad Saquib at a medical clinic and later received treatment from Dr. Ronald Sheppard at a chiropractic practice.

Cave claimed portions of testimony by Sibbing's expert witness were properly excluded because they were contrary to Whitaker v. Kruse, 495 N.E.2d 223 (Ind. Ct. App. 1986). Sibbing contended if Whitaker is applicable, then a defendant wouldn't ever be able to refute a plaintiff's claim that medical bills were reasonable and necessary.

The justices held that the phrase "reasonable and necessary," as a qualification for damages recoverable by an injured party, means that the amount of medical expense claimed must be reasonable, and that the nature and extent of the treatment claimed must be necessary in the sense that it proximately resulted from the wrongful conduct of another. They also held the rule in Whitaker is a correct application of the "scope of liability" component of proximate cause.

Sibbing didn't assert that Cave failed to show, but for the collision, the challenged treatment would not have occurred. Instead, Sibbing challenged the medical judgment of Cave's doctors in choosing to administer the questioned treatment, which he can't do, the majority of justices concluded.

The justices unanimously agreed that Cave's testimony about what Saquib told her about her injuries should not have been admitted under Indiana Evidence Rule 803(4). They disagreed with and disapproved of the holding in Coffey v. Coffey, 649 N.E.2d 1074 (Ind. Ct. App. 1995), in which the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded a letter from a doctor regarding a husband's diagnosis, treatment, and inability to work fell within Rule 803(4), and allowed it to be admitted.

"While Rule 803(4) does not expressly identify which declarants' medical statements are intended to be treated as a hearsay rule exception, we hold that the Rule is intended and should apply only to statements made by persons who are seeking medical diagnosis or treatment," wrote Justice Brent Dickson.

As such, Cave's testimony should have been excluded because it didn't qualify as an exception to the hearsay rule. But the admission was cumulative, didn't affect Sibbing's substantial rights, and doesn't require reversal because of the substantial medical confirmation provided through medical records and other testimony admitted without objection.

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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