Court reverses summary disposition and reinstates death case, noting error in one hearsay ruling but sanctioning the Court's exclusion of contradictory medical chart entry
Grace Lewis was a mentally disabled young woman who choked to death at the New Horizon Rehabilitation facility. Her family argued that she choked because her attendant did not adequately supervise her known tendency to eat too rapidly and did not supervise her during a mealtime bathroom visit. The attendant and other staff submitted affidavits claiming constant supervision and sought summary disposition. The family countered with the Emergency Room chart from Grace's admission, documenting that the choking episode commenced during a period of lack of supervision. The family offered testimony that an un-named facility employee initially provided an explanation that contradicted the affidavits of close supervision.
The trial judge rejected the family's offer of proof as inadmissible hearsay and granted the facility summary disposition. He held that even though the attendant was not limiting the food available to Grace as her prior attendant had, there was no admissible evidence that the attendant violated the standard of care. The family appealed. The Court of Appeals ruled that summary disposition should not have been granted. While the higher court agreed that the family's testimony about the contradictory account of the incident was admissible, it rejected the family's claim that the ER admission history should come into evidence. The higher court judges ruled that although information provided for purposes of medical treatment is not hearsay, "a general statement regarding lack of supervision without any reference to time is not reasonably 'necessary to...diagnosis or treatment." Thus, the contemporary entry by an unbiased source which was probably the most credible piece of evidence remains excluded at the trial.