Anonymous Letter by Hospital Employee Inadmissible

By Michael Zerres

Another interesting aspect of the Liguori case, cited in the blog below, was the Court’s ruling that an anonymous letter apparently authored by a hospital employee was inadmissible. The letter, sent to the family of the deceased patient, was found to be hearsay (that is a statement offered by a witness not present at trial to establish to the truth of the facts set forth in the letter). Since the plaintiff could not affirmatively establish with any certainty that the author of the letter was, in fact, a hospital employee (as opposed to some other non-hospital health care provider) and, thus, make the statements in the letter binding admissions on the hospital, the jury (which incidentally found that there was no malpractice) never got to hear the contents of the letter, which read as follows:

I wish to express my sincere sympathy to your family for the loss of your dear mother. A colleague of mine informed me of her passing. I hope that your family is well aware of the circumstances surrounding your mother’s deterioration while at Hackensack Hospital.

I am a healthcare provider at the hospital, and would lose my job if this letter could be tracked back to me. On the day of your mother’s surgery her chest x-ray showed that she had fluid on the left side that required the insertion of a chest tube. During the insertion of the tube your mother experienced a rapid decrease in blood pressure as well as cardiac arrhythmias. Along with these vital sign changes she was putting out a tremendous amount of blood into the newly inserted chest tube. As a result she had to return to the O.R. to be opened up again. I don’t know if you have been aware of the reason for her return to the O.R., but her subsequent outcome was poor to say the least. I watched day after day, as her condition did not improve, knowing that the state she was in could possibly have been avoided. To add insult to injury the nurses on the unit were told by their head nurse to provide as little information to the family as possible. I believe that the hospital was afraid that there may be an impending lawsuit as a result of the botched chest tube insertion, and they wanted to make it appear that her decompensation was due to her initial surgery and her age.

I am truly sorry for not coming forward sooner. Just knowing that your family has been lied to in that manner, in an attempt to cover up their mishandling of her

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