COA: Doctor’s CHINS testimony falls within hearsay exception

Testimony from a physician which supported the state’s effort to adjudicate six minor siblings as children in need of services was allowed under the hearsay exception, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

Cortney Demetris, M.D., treated Q.J., Jr. a 14-year-old boy who was initially picked up by police for running away. Demetris found the boy to be malnourished, weighing about half what he should have, and bruised on his lower back, the top of his buttocks, on one of his hips and his chest.

Q.J., Jr. was the oldest of six, all of whom were subsequently removed from their home. At the hearing on the CHINS petition, Demetris testified about her examination and diagnosis of Q.J., Jr. and his brother, Q.J. She also told the court what Q.J., Jr. as well as his mother, had said to her.

Hamilton Superior Court granted the petition and the father, Q.J., Sr., appealed. He argued the trial court abused its discretion by allowing Demetris testify about what Q.J., Jr. said was the cause of his bruises and malnutrition.

To support his argument, the father cited Bartrum v. Grant County Office of Family and Children (In re W.B.), 772 N.E.2d 522 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002), asserting there is no evidence that Q.J., Jr. knew he was talking to a professional who was making a diagnosis.

The unanimous Court of Appeals panel was not convinced. It noted that In re W.B., the children were 5 years old and younger and mentally incompetent. In contrast, Q.J., Jr. is a teenager.

“Q.J., Jr. made his statements to Dr. Demetris while he was in the hospital on August 25, 2016, which was approximately three weeks prior to his fifteenth birthday,” Judge Edward Najam, Jr., wrote for the court. “Based on Q.J., Jr.’s age and the fact that he made the statements to a doctor while in a hospital, the inference that he knew he was talking to a medical professional and that he was motivated to provide truthful information is obvious.”

The case is In the Matter of: Q.J., Jr., Q.J., Bre.J., Ba.J., Bri.J., and Bro.J., Children in Need of Services, Q.J., Sr. (Father) v. Indiana Department of Child Services, 29A04-1706-JC-1482.

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