Wednesday, April 29, 2009

2106 again...

In the world of appellate practice, there are three types of appeals you can take up. The first type of appeal involves the instance where you know you are going to lose, but there is some overriding interest which compels you to file and perfect the appeal. I think this is usually relegated to the criminal side of the arena or issues involving large monetary awards that need to be challenged. These are the shot in the dark appeals. In order to win this type of appeal, spin around three times, throw a dart, and see if you can hit the bulls eye.

The second type of appeal you could take up is one where you believe the law should be a certain way, and there is case law or other sources of law out there, which if favorably construed, could support your position. This is also the category of appeal where I think if you repeat yourself a few thousand times, you might get heard. This is probably where the Dan Medical line of cases came from. I also believe that this is how the "AB v. Liberty" line of cases and the "old" Appellate Term, Fogel line of cases eventually died a well deserved death at the Appellate Division.

And then there is the third type of appeal. This is the one where the law is established, the facts are properly presented to the lower court and, for whatever reason, the lower court chooses to depart from settled precedent.

And now...
St. Vincent Med. Care, P.C. v Mercury Cas. Co., 2009 NY Slip Op 50810(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2009)

In this case, Defendant moved for summary judgment based upon a prima facie showing that the contested services lacked medical necessity. There was approximately $6,000 in disputed billing, involving all types of modalities of treatment. The fourth cause of action, which was not disputed, involved a $71.49 office visit, if memory serves correct.

Plaintiff cross-moved and opposed the underlying summary judgment. Plaintiff, in opposition to Defendant's motion argued that: (Issue #1) a business record predicate was not set forth in Defendant's moving papers; (Issue #2) the denials were not timely and properly mailed; and (Issue #3) the services were medically necessary. The Appellate Term, for the first time, commented on Issue #1, finding that Defendant's papers set forth a business record predicate for the admission of the denials into evidence. Those who have followed the law know that the Appellate Division, Second Department, has ruled on this issue, albeit the last time in 2006 and the first time 2004.

Issue #2 was quickly disposed of since the affidavit that was presented has previously been held to adequately describe the mailing procedure.

Issue #3 is the reason this case went up the appellate ladder. Plaintiff, in her opposition papers, presented an affirmation of Dr. Zakharov. Upon a search of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) website, it was learned that Dr. Zakharov was the President of this corporation. CPLR 2106 expressly disallows a party to "affirm" to the truth of matters set forth in the litigation, and at least three cases previously held that a member of a business organization who is a party to the litigation may not use the CPLR 2106 affirmation process.

A proper objection along with the printout of the OPR site were set forth in Defendant's reply papers. Incidentally, some have argued (and there was merit to this argument) that the OPR record needed to be certified. CPLR 4518(c). I think we can all agree that after Kingsbrook Jewish Med. Ctr. v Allstate Ins. Co. 2009 NY Slip Op 00351 (2d Dept 2009), this objection is palpably without merit.

Plaintiff's papers were properly excluded. Having failed to raise a triable issue of fact, summary judgment was awarded to Defendant.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

45-days...and then what?

Upon a medical provider's or Claimant's violation of the 30-day rule or 45-day rule, and an insurance carrier's timely denial thereto, what happens if a Plaintiff/Claimant subsequent to this denial proffers a reasonable justification for the late submission?

It would appear that the Carrier would have a real problem, since its only defense to payment of the otherwise valid claim would not be sustainable.

Such appears to be the case in the recent Appellate Term matter of:

Bronx Expert Radiology v Clarendon Natl. Ins. Co
2009 NY Slip Op 50747(U)(App. Term 1st Dept. 2009)

In Bronx Expert, a triable issue of fact was set forth as to the excuse for the late submission. Should the excuse for a late submission be deemed reasonable and sustained at trial or even on summary judgment, as a matter of law, then the carrier will have to pay the entire bill.

I suspect that the shrewd carrier, upon deciding to deny a bill for a 30-day rule or 45-day rule violation, would also adjust the bill from the standard medical management perspective. Accordingly, should the 30 or 45 day rule denial not hold, then a substantive defense could still be interposed.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My car was not there damnit!

Mid Atl. Med., P.C. v Harleysville Worcester Ins. Co.
2009 NY Slip Op 50736(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2009)

One of the biggest problems medical providers dealing with assigned claims have is defending against certain coverage issues. This usually involves in hit and run cases, "it never happened cases" and even causation defenses, predicated upon a degeneration claim.

If a carrier's papers are satisfactory on its motion for summary judgment and sufficient to shift the burden to the Assignee provider, then the provider many times needs to procure the assistance of its Assignor. And we all know the effort and sheer impossibility it many times takes to locate the Assignor.

That is what appears to have happened here. I would opine that this happens frequently on the "my car did not make contact with that person" or "It was not me" defense.

Here are the facts:

"In support of its motion, defendant annexed affidavits from its insured and its insured's wife in which they stated that although they own a 1995 Oldsmobile, they live in Fredonia, New York and neither they nor their vehicle was involved in an accident in Brooklyn. They further stated that they are the only individuals who have access to their vehicle and that they have not been to Brooklyn in over 30 years."

Plaintiff could not or did not procure an affidavit or other admissible proof to raise an issue of fact. Summary judgment was granted to Defendant.

Not only did Plaintiff lose, but here comes the real rub.

Plaintiff Assignor, who was probably a pedestrian, will probably be collaterally estopped from contesting in his or her BI or even UM case that he or she was hit by the 1995 Oldsmobile. This is classic Lobell.

I guess my thought, and you can tell me if I am wrong, is that you need to be really careful when litigating certain coverage issues in the context of an assigned no-fault case. You just never know when a potential malpractice claim may be brought by the Assignor, who is in privity with the Assignee, when that Assignor learns that he or she is collaterally estopped from bringing or succeeding on his or her BI or UM case.

I would go so far as to say that the minute a coverage issue that can really hurt an Assignor arises in an assigned no-fault action, execute a stip of discon. If the Defendant will not consent, then move to discontinue without prejudice.

Ortho Med Supply - more than meets the eye

The recent trend in Appellate Term jurisprudence involving cases with (u) or Misc (a) cites is to take the approach that the Appellate Division, Second Department takes in terms of reasoning a case. The Court will cite to other precedent which, on their facts, should guide the reader as to what the law is in the matter sub judice. The other trend is for the courts to deem certain challenges "unpreserved" or unpreserved, yet without merit if preserved.

Ortho-Med Surgical Supply, Inc. v Mercury Cas. Co.
2009 NY Slip Op 50731(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2009)

If you read the facts of this case, you would think this is another "medical necessity" summary judgment motion that another carrier interposed. Yet, if you read the record on appeal, you would see something different.

This case involved a denial that on its face was dated one month previous to its generation date. Therefore, the denial was dated prior to the receipt date of the bill. The carrier, in their motion for summary judgment, presented an affidavit from someone with personal knowledge that this was a scrivener's error and based upon a review of the computer records and the paper file, the denial was generated one month following the date set forth on the denial. The affidavit then went on to state that it was mailed in the manner consistent with properly dated denials. Thus, it was mailed on the date it should have been dated or the next business date, in accordance with the carrier's standard mailing procedures.

Plaintiff opposed the motion and cross-moved, arguing that the denial was fatally defective. The carrier prevailed on its motion and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the plaintiff then went on to argue, besides its preserved argument, that the denial could not be considered a business record since it had the wrong date on it. If a denial is not deemed a business record, it may not be considered by the Court. Hospital v. Elrac and Montifiore v. Liberty stand for those propositions of law.

The carrier argued that a proper foundation was laid and any defects in the "business record" would go to the weight - not the admissibility - of the business record.

Following consideration of all the proofs, the Appellate Term affirmed the grant of summary judgment to the carrier.

Now if only the entire procedural history of this whole case were set forth in the opinion, it might be worth something more than a (u) cite.

But what I can say is that if a defect is not numerous and you spell it out in a decent affidavit, the Appellate Term will give you a pass.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pine Hollow - dead

It is nice to see the death of a case, which was improperly decided in the first instance. In many ways, it is a vindication to those of us who believed Pine Hollow created a scenario that left the business record rule, naked and without potency. Caruthers pretty much fixes up the mess Pine Hollow created.

But, the better question is whether one really needs to satisfy CPLR 4518(a) to make a prima facie case?

Monday, April 13, 2009

To be Lobelled

I have always said that to understand no-fault, you need to understand bodily injury law. This is typified through instances where the result of an assigned no-fault case can fatally destroy the personal injury case for the assignor.

This issue I think rears its ugly head most often times in the so-called "causation" scenarios, where the defense to the no-fault claim is that the injuries are not causally related to the underlying motor vehicle accident. The question that arises is what happens to the corresponding personal injury claim of the assignor if the insurance carrier succeeds in proving this defense?

This is when one must understand the term: "to be lobelled". Here is the case:

Lobel v. Allstate Ins. Co. 269 A.D.2d 502 (2d Dept. 2002).

"The defendant moved to dismiss the cause of action to recover no-fault benefits on the ground that it was barred by a prior arbitration proceeding between the plaintiff's assignee and the defendant, which resulted in a determination that there was no casual connection between the plaintiff's lower back condition and the subject automobile accident. The defendant demonstrated that the issue in the **489 arbitration proceeding was identical to and decisive of this cause of action. The plaintiff failed to establish the absence of a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue in the prior matter".

I think the bolded words speak for themselves.

Oh yes, what about the IME cut-off that is upheld? How does this impact the assignor's personal injury case? Barnett v. Ives 265 A.D.2d 865 (4th Dept.1994).

In Barnett, the Appellate Division held that an arbitration award which found that an injured person was not longer injured as a result of the accident, whether phrased as a causation or medical necessity determination, is collateral estoppel to the injured person in a personal injury case. As observed from the facts should you pull the case up, it is potentially catosrophic in terms of proving the two most potent 5102(d) categories: (a) Significant Limitation; and (b) Permanent Consequential. Furthermore, even if you can prove Significant Limitation or 90/180, an adervse arbitration ruling would knock out future damages, which many times is the crux of the BI case. It may also call into question the degree of actual injury, which may limit damages for past pain and suffering and past economic injury.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

TImely submissions and MVAIC - a real problem

Bronx Expert Radiology, P.C. v Motor Veh. Acciden Indem. Corp.
2009 NYSlipOp 50621(U)(App. Term 1st Dept. 2009)

"Defendant's motion for summary judgment should have been granted. Even assuming that plaintiff's submission of the claims for no-fault benefits to Seminole Casualty Insurance Company was inadvertent and justified plaintiff's initial delay in submitting the claims to defendant (see 11 NYCRR 65-3.5[l]), plaintiff has failed to provide a "reasonable justification" for the six-month delay between the date it was apprised of Seminole Casualty's denial of benefits and its submission of the claims to defendant"

The 45-day rule and MVAIC.

It seems a little disconcerting that an agency that our tax dollars supports plays by its own set of rules and appears to be exempt from paying no-fault claims, by operation of law. A scenario that seems to play out here is that MVAIC first declares that you must demonstrate through affidavits that you were not covered by any other source of insurance. This is what we can call the condition-precedent to coverage we see so much of in the decisional law from the Appellate Term, Second Department.

Admittedly, sometimes the condition precedent for being eligible for MVAIC is obvious. Examples of this include when a New York pedestrian, who has no other source of coverage, is run-down by a hit and run vehicle, or where a passenger in an uninsured vehicle who does not have other sources of coverage seeks coverage from MVAIC.

More often, I suspect there are issues as to the possible existence of other sources of coverage, or issues involving whether a policy of insurance may be canceled or ever existed. These are issues that need to be investigated and may take time to sort out.

In many of the above instances, I would think that by the time you sort out whether or not an injured person is qualified, the 45-day time period to submit bills to MVAIC has expired.

Yet, the Courts then come back and say that you did not act diligently enough in demonstrating a reasonable excuse for your late submission. In my survey of all 45-day rule appellate cases, I have yet to find a court that has held that a late submission was excusable. This says a lot, I think. I believe there needs to be special time frames set forth in the MVAIC scenario.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

It is a two way street

In reading the Westchester Med. Ctr. v Lincoln Gen. Ins. Co., 2009 NY Slip Op 02589 (2d Dept. 2009) case that involved the validity of a denial based upon workers compensation primacy, it appeared (at first blush) that the providers obtained a true victory against the carriers. Whereas compensation is somewhat consistent with managed health care, no-fault is the exact opposite. Furthermore, the scope of medical services compensated under no-fault is far greater than the services reimbursed under Workers Compensation. One only needs to ask a certain bunch of attorneys who are fighting this exact issue in the context of whether a Licensed Massage Therapist may receive compensation under no-fault for rendered services inasmuch as the same services are not compensable under Workers Compensation. This same battle arises in the realm of acupuncture that an L.AC performs and services a chiropractor renders outside the chiropractor fee schedule.

But, does this also mean that "priority of coverage" issues may also be subject to the 30-day pay or deny rule? Let me rephrase this statement. Does this mean that a primacy of coverage defense may be adjudicated in court or arbitration against a Claimant, because another insurance carrier might be primary?

Here are two examples. 1) John Doe, a Geico insured, is involved in a motor vehicle accident while occupying an Elrac rental vehicle in New York. Or, 2) John Doe, while in a Elrac vehicle is in an accident in Montana.

Under scenerio "1", Elrac is primary. Under scerio "2", Geico is primary. Simply put, the rule in New york is that coverage follows the vehicle, except that when the accident occurs outside NEw York, it follows the person.

Medical provider submits bills to Geico under scenerio #1 and Elrac in scenerio #2. Both of the carriers the bills were submitted to are not the first in line under a priority of payment analysis. Geico in example #1 and Elrac in example #2 timely denies the bills. Now what?

Under conventional wisdom, issues involving primacy of payment must be adjudicated in 5105 mandatory arbitration. See, 65-3.12; SZ Medical, P.C. v. Lancer Ins. Co., 7 Misc.3d 8 (App. Term 2d Dept. 2005). In other words, the secondary carrier must adjust the claim in the normal and ordinary course of business and then seek reimbursement against the primary carrier through intercompany arbitration. The SOL would be three years from the payment, so it cannot be said that the carrier should be too unhappy with this result. Motor Vehicle Acc. Indemnification Corp. v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. 89 N.Y.2d 214 (1997).

Under the current system, money from the secondary insurer would have to be paid out on the front end, but may be recovered on the back end.

Now, because of the Westchester Case, it appears that priority of payment issues may be raised and defended at any time through a timely denial. Thus, next time I receive a denial when there is a primary of payment issue, maybe I actually have a defense? So, you can say this is the other side of the two-way street...

Be careful what you wish for.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Workers Comp Mess

Westchester Med. Ctr. v Lincoln Gen. Ins. Co.
2009 NY Slip Op 02589 (2d Dept. 2009)

This case has a few issues. The first issue can be resolved relatively easily. Factually, the carrier apparently failed to indicate to the provider the specific person from whom verification was sought. This defect rendered the EUO scheduling letters and the ensuing denials improper. The cases the Westchester court cited explain this principle quite well. To explain for those unfamiliar with this concept, a delay letter has to say what you are delaying for and who you are seeking the information from. The letters have to be highly specific, lest you wish to be subject to Presbyterian preclusion.

The better issue is the Workers Comp issue. The Court, for the first time that I can remember, is apparently holding that a Workers Comp denial must be timely. The Court fails to consider Workers Comp as a coverage issue. This is problematic, because I believe the law is clear.

In O'Hurley-Pitts v. Diocese of Rockville Centre 57 A.D.3d 633 (2d Dept. 2008), the Court held as follows:

"The Court of Appeals has held that the Workers' Compensation Board “has primary jurisdiction over the issue of the availability of [workers' compensation] coverage,” and if a plaintiff fails to litigate that issue before the Board, “the court should not express an opinion as to the availability of compensation but remit the matter to the Board,” since “[t]he compensation claim is a jurisdictional predicate to the civil action” (Liss v Trans Auto Sys., 68 NY2d 15, 21 [1986]; see Botwinick v Ogden, 59 NY2d 909 [1983]; O'Rourke v Long, 41 NY2d 219 [1976]). Accordingly, in considering the defendants' motion, the Supreme Court should not have entertained their contention that the plaintiff was barred from recovery pursuant to Workers' Compensation Law § 11. The case must be referred to the Workers' Compensation Board for a determination as to whether the plaintiff has a valid cause of action for damages or whether he is relegated to benefits under the Workers' Compensation Law"

The Regulation states the following:

11 NYCRR Sec. 65-3.9(a)(9): "Pursuant to section 5102(b)(2) of the Insurance Law, when the applicant is entitled to workers' compensation benefits due to the same accident, the workers' compensation carrier shall be the sole source of reimbursement for medical expenses."

I believe the Appellate Division messed up. I just hope a good record was preserved.

LMK will never go away

LMK Psychological Servs., P.C. v State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co.
2009 NY Slip Op 02481 (2009)

Everybody now knows the LMK decision. Many people have posted and blogged about it. I could discuss it here at length, but it would be fruitless. I will share a few observations. First, the decision was poorly written. When I say poorly written, I mean this in the sense that modern no-fault jurisprudence is nuanced. Does anybody remember the entire line of cases which construed interest tolling based upon a definition of the word "Applicant"?

The Court of Appeals, in a cavalier fashion, used the words: "insured", "claimant", and "cause of action" all throughout their opinion. These phrases have created hundreds of court decisions from the lower courts up through the Appeals Courts. I will highlight the examples of the internally inconsistent language that the Court of Appeals used in this decision:

1) "the Superintendent stated
"[that provision] makes it clear that the amount of attorneys' fees awarded will be based upon 20% of the total amount of first party benefits awarded. That total amount is derived from the total amount of individual bills disputed in either a court action or arbitration, regardless of whether one bill or multiple bills are presented as part of a total claim for benefits, based upon the health services rendered by a provider to the same eligible insured."

2) "For purposes of calculating attorneys' fees, the Superintendent has interpreted a claim to be the total medical expenses claimed in a cause of action pertaining to a single insured, and not — as the courts below held — each separate medical bill submitted by the provider."

3) "Thus, this Court accepts the Insurance Department's interpretation of its own regulation and, upon remittitur, directs Supreme Court to calculate attorneys' fees based on the aggregate of all bills for each insured"

So now, we have different interpretations of this rule. Does the LMK rule involve each "cause of action" no matter how pleaded? Does this rule involve the "aggregate of all bills" for the insured? Or, does LMK stands for what it means: "Because this interpretation is neither irrational, unreasonable, nor runs counter to the clear wording of the statute, it is entitled to deference."

I will take option #3. The Appellate Terms will inevitably clean this mess up, and hold that option #3 is the most logical path to follow. But LMK at all levels just goes to show how careful things need to be expressed, or else unintended consequences will be abound.


In the matter of PLP Acupuncture, P.C. v Progressive Cas. Ins. Co., 2009 NYSlipOp 50491(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2009), the Appellate Term observed the following:

Defendant's affirmed peer review report and the affidavit of its peer review acupuncturist established prima facie that there was no medical necessity for the services provided by plaintiff. We note that as some of the medical reports relied upon by defendant's acupuncturist in his peer review report were prepared by plaintiff, plaintiff could not challenge the reliability of its own medical records and reports (see Cross Cont. Med., P.C. v Allstate Ins. Co., 13 Misc 3d 10 [App Term, 1st Dept 2006]; see also Home [*2]Care Ortho. Med. Supply, Inc. v American Mfrs. Mut. Ins. Co., 14 Misc 3d 139[A], 2007 NY Slip Op 50302[U] [App Term, 1st Dept 2007]). Furthermore, since it has been held that an "expert witness's testimony of reliance upon out-of-court material to form an opinion may be received in evidence, provided there is proof of reliability" (Wagman v Bradshaw, 292 AD2d 84, 85-86 [2002]), the fact that defendant's peer reviewer relied upon medical reports from other medical providers in forming his opinion as to the medical necessity of the service performed does not render the peer review report insufficient to establish a lack of medical necessity.

Two observations:

1) There was no reason to reach, rely or discuss Wagman. It is hornbook law that the Defendant may use the Plaintiff's [whether it be assignor or assignee] medical records against him or his assignee. I have dedicated numerous posts on this point.

2) Can Plaintiffs in threshold cases get around the current requirement that the reports their experts rely on be "affirmed" or "sworn to", because of the Appellate Term's interpretation of Wagman?

3) Has the spill-over effect of no-fault litigation once again contaminated other areas of law?

Dangerous case. Proper result, poorly reasoned.