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JEAN BAKER WILLIAMS v. EDWARD J. MCCLAIN (02/13/87)

decided: February 13, 1987.

JEAN BAKER WILLIAMS, APPELLANT,
v.
EDWARD J. MCCLAIN, M.D., APPELLEE



Appeal from the Order Entered April 19, 1985, by the Pennsylvania Superior Court at No. 112, Pittsburgh, 1982 (Reargument Denied June 21, 1985) Affirming the Order of December 17, 1981 of the Court of Common Pleas Civil Division, Allegheny County at No. 2685, July Term, 1972, 345 Pa. Superior Ct. 633, 496 A.2d 861 (1985).

COUNSEL

George F. Schoener, Jr., M. Mark Mendel, Ltd., Philadelphia, for appellant.

Ronald N. Heck, Patrick J. Shannon, Pittsburgh, for appellee.

Nix, C.j., and Larsen, McDermott, Hutchinson and Zappala, JJ. Flaherty, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. Papadakos, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case. McDermott, J., dissents.

Author: Hutchinson

[ 513 Pa. Page 302]

OPINION OF THE COURT

The plaintiff in the trial below, Jean Baker Williams, appeals by allowance an order of Superior Court, 345 Pa. Super. 633, 496 A.2d 861, affirming the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, which denied plaintiff's motion for a new trial. In affirming Common Pleas, Superior Court held that the medical opinion of a social worker contained in a hospital report on Williams was admissible under the Uniform Business Records as Evidence Act, 42 Pa.C.S. ยง 6108 (Business Records Act). The social worker was not called to testify. The report involved out of court statements made by Williams to the social worker as well as the expression of an opinion by the social worker, an unqualified witness, based on those out of court statements. She recorded admissions by appellant concerning cause of pain and financial difficulties, and based on these admissions, the absent social worker opined in the report that appellant's problems were caused by matters which were independent of her medical treatment and pre-existed that treatment. Causation was a key issue in the case. The admission into evidence of an opinion contained in this report under the Business Records Act is inconsistent with prior decisions of this Court concerning this exception to the

[ 513 Pa. Page 303]

    hearsay rule.*fn1 We therefore reverse Superior Court and remand for a new trial.

Jean Baker Williams was born with a congenital dislocated hip. Before meeting with Dr. Edward McClain about this problem she had seen several physicians between 1962 and 1969. During this time she underwent at least four surgical procedures. In December, 1969, Williams visited McClain about her problem, which included pain in the affected hip and a disparity in the length of her legs. An operation was performed on June 4, 1970, and a McKee-Ferrar type prosthesis*fn2 was implanted in place of her right hip. After the operation, Williams continued to experience pain. To alleviate this problem a second operation, which replaced the McKee-Ferrar with a Minneapolis implant, was performed on September 4, 1970. After this operation an infection developed, and several additional procedures were also needed to alleviate a bleeding problem that had developed as a result of the operation.

Williams brought a medical malpractice action against McClain on June 3, 1975. Her lawsuit was based on two distinct theories. The first was that McClain had been negligent when performing the operations. Second, Williams asserted that McClain was liable for her injuries because he did not provide a sufficient explanation of the risks involved in the procedures used, and the alternatives available. Thus, she could not give an informed consent to the operations. She contends that as a result of McClain's breach of duty the pain in her hip is far more severe than before the operations, and that her right leg no longer functions effectively. She also alleges she has become a drug addict as a result of this pain, and that addiction has

[ 513 Pa. Page 304]

    led to financial difficulty. In 1981, a jury found Dr. McClain not liable. Williams filed a motion for a new trial which was denied on December 17, 1981. She then appealed to Superior Court which affirmed the decision of the trial court on April 19, 1985.

The first issue raised on appeal before this Court deals with the admissibility of a social worker's report. Williams argues that the report was erroneously admitted into evidence. The ...


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