Physician Statement Admitted as Harmless Error but may be Inadmissible Going Forward.

A physician statement in a guardianship-conservator proceeding was admissible evidence over hearsay objection (as harmless error) but may not be admissible under 803(6). Minn. R. Evid. 803(4). In re the Emergency Guardianship and Conservatorship of: Gary Burke, A18-1894 Filed July 22, 2019 (Minn.App. 2019). In this case, there was a series of facts that supported the appointment of an emergency guardian and conservator. The ward objected to the admission of the physician’s statement as hearsay under Minn. R. Evid. 801 which is generally not admissible under 802. But the rules of evidence allow some statements that are sufficiently trustworthy. Minn. R. Evid. 803/804. Rule 803(4) allows admission of statements for medical diagnosis or treatment. That was objected to because the ward argued that the records were not kept in the ordinary course of business and were prepared for litigation which would make the physician statement inadmissible under Minn. R. Evid. 803(6). But the court of appeals found that the evidence submitted was harmless error. The outcome of this ruling seems to be an outcome of a harmless error ruling rather than a ruling on hearsay. In other words, if the record had sufficient evidence to support a court order of guardianship then admission of the physician statement is admissible as harmless error. But if it is harmless error why should it be admitted if it is not needed? It seems the court of appeals thinks the physician statement is inadmissible under Minn. R. Evid. 803(6) if the statement is really needed for an order, i.e., it would not be harmless error if the evidence is that important. While this case allowed a physician statement under these facts, a court might not admit the statement in another case if you cite to this case that it is in fact an error to admit the physician statement, especially when the admission of evidence is more than harmless under your set of facts. This case also argued for less restrictive alternatives and reduced guardian powers which were denied based upon the record.

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This entry was posted in Conservatorship, Emergency guardianship or conservatorship, Evidence 801, Evidence 802, Evidence 803, Guardianship, Physician Statement, probate, Rules of Evidence, Vulnerable Adult. Bookmark the permalink.