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Hansen v. Heath

852 P.2d 977 (1993)

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Hansen v. Heath

Utah Supreme Court

852 P.2d 977 (1993)

Facts

A 78-year-old man, James Woo (defendant), blacked out while driving and rear-ended a vehicle driven by Gail Hansen (plaintiff). Woo was transported by ambulance to his treating doctor. Woo told his doctor that he had suddenly lost consciousness and did not remember anything until he was pulled from his car. Woo’s doctor determined that Woo had experienced a syncopal episode, i.e., he had suddenly lost consciousness without warning. Woo was admitted to the hospital to be treated for the syncopal episode and for coronary heart failure. Hansen sued Woo for negligence. Woo’s defense was that he lost consciousness without warning and, therefore, that the accident was no one’s fault. Woo died during the lawsuit, and John Heath (defendant) represented Woo’s estate. Before trial, Hansen moved to exclude Woo’s out-of-court statement to his treating doctor that he had lost consciousness without warning just before the accident, arguing that the statement was hearsay. The trial court denied Hansen’s motion and allowed evidence of the statement at trial. The jury returned a verdict for Woo’s estate. Hansen appealed, arguing that Woo’s statement to his doctor did not qualify for any hearsay exception because it was an untrustworthy, self-serving statement that Woo could have created during the ambulance ride to avoid liability for the accident.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hall, C.J.)

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