July 18, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: CRE 803(4) Allows Statements to Physician for Diagnosis or Treatment of Medical Condition So Statements Properly Admitted

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Kelly v. Haralampopoulos on Monday, June 16, 2014.

Evidence—Statements Made for Purposes of Medical Diagnosis or Treatment.

Respondent suffered a cardiac arrest during a fine-needle aspiration biopsy. He failed to respond to routine resuscitation efforts, and the resulting brain injury left him in a vegetative state. The trial court held that statements made to a physician by a family friend, asking whether respondent’s cocaine use may have contributed to his heart attack and failure to respond to resuscitation efforts, were admissible under CRE 803(4). The court of appeals reversed, finding that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting evidence of respondent’s cocaine use.

The Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred in limiting the scope of CRE 803(4) to statements made for the purpose of prospective treatment. The Rule’s plain language applies to “diagnosis or treatment.” Although the term “treatment” has a prospective focus, the term “diagnosis” does not. Instead, diagnosis focuses on the cause of a patient’s medical condition, and may or may not involve subsequent treatment. Here, statements made by the family friend were made for the purpose of discovering the cause of respondent’s cardiac arrest and failure to react to normal resuscitation efforts, and were thus admissible under CRE 803(4). Accordingly, the court of appeals’ judgment was reversed.

Summary and full case available here.

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