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As N.Y. Civ. Prac. Act §374(a) makes plain, entries in a hospital record may not qualify for admission in evidence unless made in the regular course of the "business" of the hospital, and for the purpose of assisting it in carrying on that "business." Consequently, the only memoranda that may be regarded as within the section's compass are those reflecting acts, occurrences or events that relate to diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment or are otherwise helpful to an understanding of the medical or surgical aspects of the particular patient's hospitalization.
Plaintiff Dessi Williams was injured after an automobile driven by defendant Mervin Alexander struck him. Plaintiff was taken to Kings County Hospital for treatment. At trial, plaintiff introduced parts of the hospital's records that detailed his injury. However, defendant introduced a hospital record that indicated plaintiff stated that another automobile, not driven by defendant, caused the accident that injured plaintiff. The trial court found in favor of the defendant. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the evidence of his statement regarding what car caused his injury was inadmissible hearsay.
Was the statement attributed to the plaintiff, relating the manner in which the accident occurred, admissible as evidence?
The Court held that a memorandum made in a hospital record of acts or occurrences leading to the patient's hospitalization, not germane to diagnosis or treatment, was not admissible under section 374-a of the Civil Practice Act. According to the Court, the term "business” included profession, occupation, and calling of every kind," and among the records within the section's ambit are those that a hospital keeps in diagnosing and treating the ills of its patients. In this case, the Court held that while the records pertaining to plaintiff's injuries were admissible, the records of plaintiff's statement regarding which car caused his injury were not within the normal "business" of a hospital's operation, and were thus inadmissible. Since the Court cannot say that the evidence did not influence the jury in arriving at its verdict for defendant, a new trial should be granted.