A man was involved in an automobile accident. After being stabilized at one hospital, he was transferred the following day to a medical center. Having sustained severe injuries in the wreck, the man required multiple surgeries and was hospitalized at the medical center for several weeks. During his stay at the medical center, the man developed a deep tissue injury (also called a pressure ulcer) on his sacrum, a type of injury caused by sustained pressure on the affected body part.
The man sued the medical center for medical negligence. The complaint alleged that the pressure ulcer had resulted from the failure of medical center's employees to act in accordance with the applicable standard of care during their treatment of him, including their failure to provide routine preventative and daily care to prevent skin breakdown, by conducting proper skin assessments, turning and proper positioning, applications of pressure relief devices, providing good skin care, providing clean and dry bed linens, and maintaining adequate nutrition and hydration.
The case proceeded to trial. After the close of evidence, the jury requested to view two medical journal articles on the topic of pressure ulcers that were referenced extensively by both parties and entered into evidence. The medical center objected to sending the articles back to the jury, while the man argued in favor of doing so. After hearing the parties' arguments, the Mecklenburg County Superior Court denied the jury's request. The jury found in favor of the medical center, and the trial court entered judgment.
The Court of Appeals of North Carolina affirmed. The court held that the trial court did not err by denying the jury's request during its deliberations to review copies of two medical journal articles discussed by both parties and admitted into evidence.
The trial court did not err by denying the jury's request during its deliberations to review copies of two medical journal articles discussed by both parties and admitted into evidence. The trial court retains the sole discretion to permit the jury to take evidence admitted at trial into the jury room, provided that the parties are permitted to be heard before the trial court makes its decision. The court found that the trial court’s admission of the articles into evidence violated Rule 803(18), which states that statements contained in published periodicals on the subject of medicine, to the extent called to the attention of an expert witness upon cross-examination or relied upon by an expert witness in direct examination, may be read into evidence but may not be received as exhibits. Granting the jury’s request would have compounded the error of allowing their admission in the first place.
The Court of Appeals of North Carolina affirmed the trial court’s entry of judgment on a jury verdict in favor of the medical center after denying the jury’s request to review copies of two medical journal articles discussed by both parties and admitted into evidence.
See: Usher v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Hospital Authority, 2016 WL 3584477 (N.C.App., July 5, 2016) (not designated for publication).
See also Medical Law Perspectives, June 2016 Report: How Risky Is Going to the Hospital? The Dangers and Liabilities of Healthcare-Associated Infections