Tuesday, June 15, 2004

No error in excluding evidence of malpractice defendant's prior negligence and misconduct

In Stottlemey v. Ghramm, the Virginia Supreme Court in an opinion by Chief Justice Hassell held that in a medical malpractice case against the treating physician and the hospital, the trial court did not err in refusing to admit evidence of the physician's "prior bad acts." The Court noted, "In this Commonwealth, the rule is well established that a litigant may not cross-examine a witness about collateral independent facts irrelevant to the issues before the trier of fact," citing cases. The Court concluded that "[t]he subjects of testimony upon which the plaintiff sought to cross-examine [the defendant] were collateral, and such testimony would have certainly injected non-probative prejudicial evidence before the jury." The Court also noted, "Generally, specific acts of bad conduct or prior acts of negligence are not relevant or admissible to show that a defendant was negligent and that such negligence was a proximate cause of a plaintiff's injuries. Evidence that a defendant was negligent on a prior occasion simply has no
relevance or bearing upon whether the defendant was negligent during the occasion that is the subject of the litigation."

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