Tuesday, February 16, 2010

admin. law - hearsay - due process

Speight v. Dept. of Corrections - Cmwlth. Court - February 16, 2010


This case involves proof of the DOC's costs for medical treatment, which it sought to be placed on Speight, the prisoner-petitioner.

Hearsay is an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Bonegre v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Bertolini’s), 863 A.2d 68 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2004).

In an administrative hearing, hearsay evidence, admitted without objection, will be given its natural probative effect and may support a finding but only if competent evidence of record corroborates it. Walker v. UCBR, 367 A.2d 366 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1976).3

While [the petitioner] did not object to the admission of the medical bills, the Department, despite citing to Walker, has failed to cite anywhere in the record where those bills were corroborated by any competent evidence. In this case, all that [the DOC witness] did was go over each invoice and state the amount on the invoice. In the case of the invoice from the hospital where there were itemized amounts, she indicated what each amount was for. The other two invoices merely had a total due. She could not identify who created the document and who redacted the information pertaining to the phone numbers and addresses.

Because this Court has previously held that corroboration of the unobjected-to document is required, see Lee v. Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole, 885 A.2d 634 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2005), and there was no corroboration in this case, there was a violation of the hearsay rule.

3 The Walker Rule is not truly a rule of evidence but based on the principle that fundamental due process requires that no adjudication be based solely upon hearsay evidence. Buchanan v. Verbonitz, 525 Pa. 413, 581 A.2d 172, 175 (1990) (quoting with approval Justice Flaherty’s concurring opinion in UCBR v. Ceja, 493 Pa. 588, 427 A.2d 631, 643 (1981)).