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NJ Court Finds Death Certificate Inadmissible Hearsay Without Medical Examiner Testimony

June 13, 2018

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In <a href=""><em>Quail v. Shop-Rite Supermarkets, Inc</em>.</a>, plaintiff alleged his wife died as a result of blunt trauma from a cash register station that fell on her leg.  After the accident, plaintiff's wife told Shop-Rite she was fine, not in need of medical attention.  Four days later, however, she was transported to the hospital where she died.  The following day, a Certificate of Death was issued.  It stated the cause of death was complications of blunt trauma to the right leg.  Plaintiff sought to forego calling the Examiner who issued the Certificate to the witness stand.  Instead, plaintiff sought to rely on the Certificate only.
The Appellate Division upheld the trial court’s dismissal of plaintiff’s case on Summary Judgment because plaintiff had no medical expert on the issue of medical causation.  The Court held that the Certificate, by itself, was inadmissible hearsay despite Rules of Evidence expressly deeming the Certificate to be admissible.  The Court reasoned that despite these Rules, the Certificate, by itself, was inadmissible without the Examiner being called to the witness stand to explain his findings.
This case serves as a reminder to attorneys to ensure that evidence is admitted properly at trial, and if not, motions to dismiss should be filed.
Thanks to Michael Noblett for his contribution to this post.


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