Hutchinson v. Verstraeten, 2023 Pa. Super. LEXIS 528, 2023 WL 7381470 (November 8, 2023) (Kunselman, J.).
Brenda and Douglas Hutchinson appeal from the judgment entered on the jury’s defense verdict in favor of Dr. Thierry C. Verstraeten, M.D.; E. Ronald Salvitti, M.D., Inc.; and Allegheny Ophthalmic & Orbital Associates, P.C. (“the Eye Clinic”). The Hutchinsons challenge the trial court’s ruling that barred one of their experts from testifying at the jury trial. Because the Hutchinsons’ arguments do not establish an abuse of discretion, we affirm.
The Hutchinsons sued the Eye Clinic for medical malpractice, based on vicarious liablity and corporate negligence. They alleged that Dr. Verstraeten blinded Ms. Hutchinson’s right eye by improperly injecting fluid into it. The Hutchinsons claimed the Eye Clinic then altered Ms. Hutchinson’s medical records to conceal Dr. Verstraeten’s mistake. They rooted that claim in the testimony of Jessica Page, a self-described “expert in Health Information Technology (HIT) and Operations.”
We hold that the adoption of the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence in May of 1998, seven years after Cohen, abrogated the statement that “the unjustified exclusion of relevant evidence, otherwise admissible, is an abuse of discretion.” Cohen, 592 A.2d at 725. Under the Rules of Evidence, courts of common pleas enjoy broad discretion to determine whether evidence is relevant and whether its admission outweighs the risk of confusing the jury.
Moreover, when claiming an abuse of discretion, it is insufficient to convince us that “the lower tribunal reached a decision contrary to the decision that the appellate court would have reached.” B.B. v. Dep’t of Pub. Welfare, 118 A.3d 482, 485 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2015) (some punctuation omitted). Instead, an appellant must demonstrate one of the three abuses described above. See Womer, supra. Again, the Hutchinsons do not identify which types of abuse of the trial court supposedly committed, nor do they develop any argument based on those recognized forms of abuse.
The Hutchinsons have failed to establish an abuse of discretion within the trial court’s discretionary judgments that:
no evidence exists that anyone altered the record that helped the [Eye Clinic] or to divert the [Hutchinsons’] attention to something that would damage the Plaintiff or to — yeah, to bolster the [Hutchinsons’] case or to hurt the [Eye Clinic]. This whole issue on the audit trail at this point I find is irrelevant and is only going to cause confusion to the jury.
Further, after reading Jessica Page’s — all three reports — but particularly the last one, she goes way beyond her expertise in handwriting and standard of care and what she does in her practice, which she is really not — she is not qualified to do.
In sum, the Hutchinsons have not argued — much less persuaded this Court — that an abuse of discretion occurred. We therefore dismiss their three appellate issues as meritless.