Kelly v. Haralampopoulos

Respondent Vasilios Haralampopoulos visited the emergency room with severe abdominal pain. After a CT scan revealed a large cystic mass in his liver, Petitioner Dr. Mauricio Waintrub examined Respondent, gave a differential diagnosis identifying four possible causes for his condition, and approved a fine-needle biopsy to determine the nature of the cyst. Petitioner Dr. Jason Kelly performed the procedure, during which Respondent suffered respiratory and cardiac arrest. Normal resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful, and it took over 30 minutes to revive Respondent's heart. Lack of oxygen to his brain left Respondent in a vegetative state. Ten days later, Respondent's family and friends met with doctors to determine why Respondent went into arrest and had such a poor reaction to resuscitation efforts. After the meeting, Respondent's then-roommate and ex-girlfriend Gulsans Akyol Hurd approached Dr. Kelly and asked him whether Respondent's prior cocaine use could have contributed to his injuries. Dr. Kelly responded that cocaine could have contributed to Respondent's resistance to normal resuscitation efforts, but he was not a cardiologist so he did not know. Respondent brought a medical malpractice suit against seven individuals, including Petitioners Dr. Kelly and Dr. Waintrub. Respondent filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude Hurd's statements to Dr. Kelly as inadmissible hearsay not covered by any hearsay exception. The trial court denied the motion in limine, finding that Hurd's statements were made for purposes of diagnosis and treatment under Rule 803(4), and that their probative value was not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice under Colorado Rule of Evidence 403. The court of appeals reversed, finding that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting evidence of Respondent's cocaine use. The court held that Hurd's statements to Dr. Kelly were not admissible under Rule 803(4) because the statements were made after Respondent was in a vegetative state and treatment was no longer possible, they were not made for the purpose of diagnosis or treatment. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals erred in limiting the scope of Rule 803(4) to statements made for the purpose of prospective treatment. The Rule's plain language applies to "diagnosis or treatment," and while the term "treatment" has a prospective focus, the term "diagnosis" does not. "Here, Hurd's statements were made for the purpose of discovering the cause of Respondent's resistance to normal resuscitation efforts, and were thus admissible under Rule 803(4)." The case was remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Kelly v. Haralampopoulos" on Justia Law