Appellate Procedure – Motion for New Trial – Admissibility of Evidence of Financial Condition
Ansley v. Inmed Group, [Ms. 1160465, May 4, 2018] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2018). This decision by Justice Sellers (Stuart, C.J., and Parker, Wise, and Mendheim, JJ., concur; Bolin, Shaw, and Bryan, JJ., concur in the result; and Main, J., recuses) affirms the Bullock Circuit Court’s denial of plaintiff’s motion for new trial in a medical negligence wrongful-death case against Bullock County Hospital (“BCH”) and BCH hospitalist Dr. Domingo.
The Court refused to consider the plaintiff’s argument that she was entitled to a JML on the claims against Dr. Domingo because the plaintiff “never asked the trial court to enter a JML on all elements of her medical-malpractice claim ....” Ms. *17.
The Court held that the plaintiff had “not demonstrated that Dr. Domingo’s own testimony was not sufficient to allow the jury to determine he did not breach the standard of care applicable to a hospitalist.” Ms. *25. Accordingly, the Court concluded that the Bullock Circuit Court did not exceed its discretion in denying her motion for new trial. Ibid.
Finally, the Court rejected plaintiff’s contention that the circuit court erred to reversal in preventing plaintiff to put on evidence of the wealth of BCH. A witness for BCH had testified that BCH was a small hospital and could not afford certain equipment. Ms. *26. The Court held that
“[W]hen evidence of financial worth goes to material issue in the case, it is admissible.” Johns v. A.T. Stevens Enters., Inc., 815 So. 2d 511, 516 (Ala. 2001). Moreover, “[e]vidence regarding a party’s financial condition may also be admissible when the party’s opponent has opened the door by commenting upon or asking questions concerning [the] party’s financial standing.” Hathcock v. Wood, 815 So. 2d 502, 509 (Ala. 2001)(quoting 1 Charles W. Gamble, McElroy’s Alabama Evidence § 189.05(2)(c)(5th ed. 1996)). “A trial court’s ruling on the admission or exclusion of evidence will be reversed only if it is shown that the trial court exceeded its discretion in so ruling.” Jimmy Day Plumbing and Heating, Inc. v. Smith, 964 So. 2d 1, 7 (Ala. 2007).