On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County.
Approved for Publication June 21, 1996.
Before Judges Villanueva, Kimmelman and Bilder. The opinion of the court was delivered by VILLANUEVA, J.A.D. (Retired and temporarily assigned on recall).
The opinion of the court was delivered by: VILLANUEVA
The opinion of the court was delivered by VILLANUEVA, J.A.D. (Retired and temporarily assigned on recall).
Defendant Sonya Dudnick appeals from a judgment of $1,111.11 plus interest and costs in favor of plaintiff Hahnemann University Hospital (plaintiff or the Hospital). We affirm.
This is a collection action for an outstanding balance due on a hospital bill incurred by defendant for treatment at the Hospital. At the time of defendant's hospitalization, she was insured by a policy that provided coverage for ninety percent of the charges up to $10,000; thereafter, the insurance company would pay 100% of the charges. In accordance with the terms of its policy, defendant's insurance company paid $10,601.59 towards this hospitalization. The total amount outstanding after receipt of the insurance payment was $1,111.11, which remains unpaid. After a bench trial, the trial court found defendant liable for $1,111.11 plus interest and court costs.
On appeal defendant claims that the trial court erred by admitting into evidence computer printout records of the Hospital and the Hospital failed to establish the reasonableness and necessity of the charges. She also contends that bias of the trial Judge deprived her of a fair trial.
Defendant's contentions are clearly without merit. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(A) and (E).
The records herein represent a classic example of the type of business records which have been historically accepted as an exception to the hearsay rule and were most recently recognized in N.J.R.E. 803(c)(6). Nonetheless, this case causes us to re-examine the law regarding admission into evidence of computer printouts.
During direct examination of plaintiff's witness Joseph Romano, plaintiff's counsel sought to introduce into evidence the computer printout of defendant's hospital bill. The witness provided testimony in order to establish a foundation to move the documents into evidence. Accordingly, the computer printout (1) was authenticated by a person who was in charge of the records and personally familiar with them, (2) was shown to reflect data recorded contemporaneously with the occurrence of the facts recorded in the usual course of the Hospital's business and (3) was shown to have been recorded in accordance with the Hospital's regular practice. Plaintiff's foundation witness, as the custodian of records with knowledge of the billing procedures, certainly was qualified to testify as to the charges incurred by defendant as contained in the Hospital's bill.
Defendant cites Monarch Federal Savings & Loan Ass'n v. Genser, 156 N.J. Super. 107, 383 A.2d 475 (Ch. Div. 1977), to argue that plaintiff failed to lay the requisite foundation under the business entry exception to the hearsay rule to admit a computer printout into evidence. That case sets forth an outdated six-prong test to be satisfied with respect to admission of computer printouts. To the extent that Monarch suggests the application of special evidentiary requirements for computer-generated business records, we specifically disapprove it.
We recently addressed this issue in the case of State v. Swed, 255 N.J. Super. 228, 604 A.2d 978 (App. Div. 1992), where we remarked that significant advancements had been achieved in computer technology since 1977 and accordingly modified and relaxed the Monarch requirements. We noted also that personal knowledge on the part of the witness to the act or event recorded had been eliminated by the New Jersey courts prior to 1977; therefore, personal knowledge likewise would not be required when computer records were sought to be introduced. Id. at 236. Moreover, we held that it was sufficient that the computer operators obtained and entered directly into a computer the data which forms the basis of the customer's bill. This practice is considered efficient and standard in the field. Id. at 238.
Given the major developments that have been made to increase the reliability and accuracy of computers in the past four years, our observation in Swed regarding the computerization of ...