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Medical Negligence - Curative Admissibility - § 6-5-551, Ala. Code 1975

Baptist Health System, Inc. v. Cantu, [Ms. 1151117, May 18, 2018] So. 3d (Ala. 2018). This unanimous decision by Justice Shaw reverses the Walker Circuit Court’s judgment entered on a $10 million verdict for compensatory damages in a medical negligence case.

Plaintiff alleged the hospital was vicariously liable for alleged malpractice by a pediatrician with admitting privileges at the hospital who failed to diagnose his infant son’s bacterial meningitis. Ms. *5. At trial, the hospital’s corporate representative testified that she had never heard “of a hospital somehow controlling or supervising the actions of independent physicians” so as to be liable for the physician’s acts. Ms. *12. Plaintiff argued this testimony opened the door under the doctrine of curative admissibility to the introduction of evidence of previous claims against the hospital asserting a similar agency theory. Over the hospital’s objection, the circuit court allowed plaintiff to examine the witness concerning ten prior malpractice cases against the hospital, including the injuries alleged by the plaintiffs in those prior cases. Ms. *20-22.

The Court held this was reversible error because “‘the doctrine of curative admissibility is limited to the extent that it cures the effect of the admission of the first illegal evidence.’” Ms. *11, citing Kelley v. State, 405 So. 2d 728, 730 (Ala. Crim. App. 1981).

Admission of this evidence violated the privilege set out in §6-5-551, Ala. Code 1975, which provides that “[a]ny party shall be prohibited from conducting discovery with regard to any other act or omission or from introducing at trial evidence of any other act or omission.” Ms. *8.

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