Estate of Joseph Gamma v. Cedar Hill Health Care Center, et al. (Docket No. A03544-13T4): Decided June 30, 2017

By Michael Zerres

Case Name: Estate of Joseph Gamma v. Cedar Hill Health Care Center, et al. (Docket No. A03544-13T4): Decided June 30, 2017

Plaintiff’s decedent died from injuries he suffered after falling off his bed in a nursing home. His estate and wife filed an action alleging that the death was the result of falling off a bed without rails. At the close of trial, the Trial Court granted a directed verdict in favor of defendants on the Counts under the New Jersey Nursing Home Responsibilities and Resident’s Act, and, the jury returned a no cause verdict as to the remaining claims.

On appeal the plaintiff made the following cardinal arguments:

  1. Reversal is required as the Trial Court erred in failing to comply with the Administrative Directive #4 -07 regarding jury selection and failed to ask three open ended question.
  2. The Defendant cross-appealed arguing that a statement made by the decedent about how he fell should not have been admitted into evidence.

The Appellate Court only ruled on defendant’s cross-appeal as follows; that the decedent’s statements as to the cause of injury were relevant to his treatment and, therefore, admissible. In employing a flexible view of the hearsay exception, it considered the trustworthiness of the declarant at the time of the statement, the temporal nature of the statement, the condition of the declarant when speaking to the medical professionals and whether the medical professionals pursued the inquiry to arrive at a diagnosis or treatment. Thus, the Trial Court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the statement.

Further, as to plaintiff’s direct appeal, the Appellate Division ruled the Trial Court committed reversible error by not following the Administrative Directive regarding Jury Selection. Because the Trial Court did not ask at least 3 open ended Voir Dire questions, a miscarriage of justice occurred and the verdict required reversal.

Thus, the matter was remanded back to the Trial Court.

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