Stoneridge Properties, Inc. v. Kuper, 72093

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
Writing for the CourtBIRDSONG; BANKE, C.J., and SOGNIER
Citation343 S.E.2d 424,178 Ga.App. 409
Docket NumberNo. 72093,72093
Decision Date21 March 1986

Page 424

343 S.E.2d 424
178 Ga.App. 409
No. 72093.
Court of Appeals of Georgia.
March 21, 1986.

Page 425

[178 Ga.App. 414] William S. Goodman, Richard G. Farnsworth, Atlanta, for appellant.

Samuel S. Olens, Robert Roy Ezor, Atlanta, for appellee.

[178 Ga.App. 409] BIRDSONG, Presiding Judge.

In September, 1982, plaintiff-appellee, Bonita Kuper attended a party at the home of Dr. Henry Selvey. While she was on the rear sundeck with seven other people, the deck pulled away from the house and plaintiff fell approximately ten to twelve feet to the ground. Her back, legs and feet were hurt, and the following morning when she bent over to get a grapefruit out of the refrigerator, she felt a sharp pain in her left leg. She went to the emergency room of the Windy Hill Hospital and had x-rays taken of her lower back and left leg. She was advised that she should be patient as it would take some time for her internal injuries to heal. She waited but the pain did not subside and she called an orthopedic doctor who had treated her in December 1981, while she was in St. Louis. Ms. Kuper, at that time, was involved in an exchange program, and she was scheduled to go to [178 Ga.App. 410] Columbia, South America, in December 1981. Just prior to leaving she had a cold, or the flu, and "some muscle aches" in her back. She went to see Dr. Ellsasser, in St. Louis, who gave her prescriptions for a muscle relaxer and a tranquilizer, a chart of exercises, and recommended a lumbosacral corset. Ms. Kuper said that "[i]t wasn't that he said that I had to go get it [the corset]. He thought it ... may have made me more comfortable on the plane ride" to South America. She had no pain in her leg at that time and the back pain was gone in about three days.

After the fall on the deck in September 1982, Ms. Kuper was referred to a neurologist, Dr. Woodward, who took down her medical history. He said she had either a pinched nerve or a disc problem and mentioned traction or surgery as a possibility and referred her to an orthopedic surgeon who gave her the same diagnosis. Ms. Kuper had just moved to Atlanta, was new in her job, and had to travel a lot. She did not want surgery and obtained the name of an acupuncturist through the medical society. Dr. Chen treated her for back pain from December 1982 through March 1983. He prescribed a back brace, and his acupuncture treatment relieved the pain, but only for short periods of time.

In January 1983, Ms. Kuper became severely ill and was taken to the emergency room of West Paces Ferry Hospital. Her illness was diagnosed as a kidney stone and her doctor recommended an immediate operation to remove the stone and possibly a kidney. Her doctor was of the opinion that the kidney stone may have been dislodged by her fall on Dr. Selvey's deck. Following her release from the hospital, she returned to treatment by Dr. Chen. Because of the continuance of pain, he recommended a neurologist. The neurologist recommended a myelogram and surgery. She refused and had a C.T. scan which showed a bulging disc in her lower back. Ms. Kuper had heard of a treatment for disc problems called "chymopapain" which was performed by some doctors in the U.S. and Canada. "Chymopapain" is a medical procedure in which a long needle is inserted into the bulging disc and chemicals injected to partially dissolve the disc. The disc is then supposed to pull away from the nerve root and ease the pain. Ms. Kuper found a doctor who could perform this procedure and had the operation at Crawford Long Hospital. She described the post-operative period as "excruciatingly painful" in which she was immobilized. The pain was so agonizing she asked that back surgery be performed as soon as possible. Surgery revealed a ruptured disc. Following this operation, she still had pain in her lower back and in the left leg, but it is not as severe as before the operation. Ms. Kuper incurred over $20,000 in medical expenses in the treatment of her illnesses which she

Page 426

alleges were caused by her fall on Dr. Selvey's deck. The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff in the amount of $88,000. [178 Ga.App. 411] Stoneridge Properties brings this appeal. Held:

1. When plaintiff contacted Dr. Woodward for his diagnosis, she gave him her prior medical history, which included the prior visit to Dr. Ellsasser in St. Louis in December 1981. Defendant introduced in evidence the deposition of Dr. Woodward in which he said that Ms. Kuper related to him that "a year prior to [the present incident] she had had some back problems that had been treated by an orthopedist. I can't remember exactly where it was in this area, but she had actually resolved without any sequelae [after effect of disease or injury] and she was doing quite well up until the time of September of '82 when she had her fall...." Following the visit of the plaintiff, the doctor dictated his notes to his secretary and they were transcribed and placed in Ms. Kuper's medical records. This was his ordinary business procedure. He identified as Exhibit D-1, the transcribed medical history of Ms. Kuper, from his medical records, kept in the regular course of business. Admission was denied and this refusal is enumerated as error.

Defendant argued to the trial court that the medical history of Ms. Kuper was admissible, both as a business record and as a medical record. Plaintiff objected on the basis that the transcribed medical history taken from Ms. Kuper was hearsay and not the best evidence. We do not agree with either party. The transcribed medical history of Ms. Kuper is the past recollection recorded of Dr. Woodward. See generally Green, Ga. Law of Evidence 229, § 130. "A witness may refresh and assist his memory by the use of any written instrument or memorandum, provided he shall finally speak from his recollection thus refreshed or shall be willing to...

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    ...for expert opinion. See generally Central Ga. R., Co. v. Carter, 212 Ga.App. 528, 442 S.E.2d 269 (1994); Stoneridge Properties v. Kuper, 178 Ga.App. 409, 343 S.E.2d 424 (1986). Further, appellee introduced the depositions containing such matter without objection or limitation as to the purp......
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