Appeals Court upholds trial judge's refusal to allow cross-examination of surgeon based on medical chart entry
Eric Korpal suffered serious complications after Samuel Shaheen, M.D., performed a laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication procedure on Korpal. He filed a malpractice claim with a supporting surgeon attesting to the fact that Shaheen should have detected the perforation of his esophagus sooner and treated it more effectively. The case went to trial, where the defense attorneys argued that counsel for Korpal should not be allowed to cross-examine Shaheen about his conference with the head of surgery over the complications encountered in this case.
Shaheen had denied that any such consultation had taken place, apparently, and the victim's attorneys wanted to impeach him with two pages of medical chart that documented the consultation. Even though the disputed chart references were not formal "Peer Review" notes that hospitals can refuse to provide to patients, the Court held that Korpal's attorneys could not use the medical chart entries to impeach the surgeon, Shaheen.
The jury decided in favor of the doctor and Korpal appealed. He objected to this ruling and also to the fact that one of the jurors used a handhelf device to conduct research and to advocate a defense verdict. On appeal, the verdict was upheld and the appellate court concluded that any error in the lower court's rulings was harmless. It ruled that the consulatation question involved impeachment on a "collateral issue" and therefore the judge did not abuse his discretion. It also ruled that the victim had not proved that the juror's misconduct had caused an adverse verdict.