Andreaus, the Second District reversed a final judgment entered in favor the defendants.
The plaintiff suffered injuries when she slipped and fell as she exited
an elevator at the defendant condominium. She and her husband filed suit
against the condominium association as well as the pest control company
who they alleged had sprayed pesticide on the tile floor outside the elevator,
where she fell. Before trial, the court excluded any mention in the plaintiff's
medical records that she slipped on spilled water. There was no witness
who could testify about who made those statements, and the plaintiff denied
making them. The plaintiff's counsel therefore redacted those statements
from the approximately 1,500 pages of medical records. The redacted medical
records were admitted into evidence at trial.
During the defense's closing, defense counsel asked the trial court
if he could comment on a portion of the medical records that mentioned
the plaintiff had slipped on spilled water, but which had mistakenly not
been redacted. No evidence had otherwise been admitted suggesting the
presence of any substance other than pesticide, and the plaintiff's
counsel was unaware of the mistake in the medical record redactions. The
trial court ruled that the defense counsel may disclose that portion of
the medical record to the jury, which he did, calling into question the
credability of the plaintiff. The jury returned a verdict for the defense.
On appeal, the Second District found there was "no question"
the trial court had abused its discretion and allowed inadmissible evidence
to go to the jury, which was "extremely" prejudicial to the
plaintiff's case. The court noted that the statements about the cause
of the fall, the source of which was unknown and the plaintiff denied
making, were inadmissible hearsay. The court cited to
Visconti v. Hollywood Rental Serv., for the proposition that statements relating to the cause of the fall
are not statements made for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment
and are therefore not admissible under section 90.803(4). That the plaintiff's
counsel mistakenly introduced the medical records without those references
redacted did not change the fact that the references were inadmissible
hearsay, and the only argument that they were admissible was that they
had mistakenly been left in the record.
The Second District further noted that the unredacted references were devastating
to the plaintiff's case. Until defense counsel mentioned those references
from the medical record, the only question for the jury was whether the
plaintiff had slipped on pesticide or whether no substance caused her
to slip. The inadmissible evidence inappropriately inserted another possible
cause, spilled water, into the central query of the case. And, worse,
the defense counsel suggested that the plaintiff had been lying throughout
the case by hiding the true cause of the accident. The failure to redact
those references was a clerical mistake that could have been corrected
before the jury's mind was tainted by the inadmissible reference.
Accordingly, the Second District reversed.