Some good old fashioned No-Fault

The big one is Langan, which I posted about last week, and there is a little chatter about a footnote if you are interested.

A big change is coming to no-fault paradise.  While you are there checking for the changes click on the NYFAIR thing–you will find NYFAIR's update on the Insurance Industry's 2011 agenda.

The Appellate Term, First Department published a slew of interesting cases, indicating a very sharp division between how the First and Second Department address peer review defenses, among other things.

Devonshire Surgical Facility Carnegie Hill Orthopedic Servs., P.C. v American Tr. Ins. Co., 2011 NY Slip Op 50511(U) (App. Term, 1st 2011)

Since the plaintiffs' motion was based upon an alleged "change in the law that would change the prior determination," it was, in actuality, a motion for renewal (CPLR 2221[e][2]; see Daniels v Millar El. Indus., Inc., 44 AD3d 895 [2007]). While there is no time limitation in which to make a motion for leave to renew (see CPLR 2221[e]; Ramos v City of New York, 61 AD3d 51, 54 [2009], app withdrawn 12 NY3d 922 [2009]; Luna v Port Auth. of NY & N.J., 21 AD3d 324, 326 [2005]), plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that their delay in seeking renewal for over four years was, in fact, due to a change in the law.

Contrary to plaintiffs' contention, appellate authority in their favor long preceded the motion court's decision in 2005 (see Presbyterian Hosp. in City of NY v Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 233 AD2d 433 [1996], lv dismissed 89 NY2d 1030 [1997]; Quality Med. Healthcare, P.C., v Lumberman's Mut. Cas. Co., 2002 NY Slip Op 50098[U] [2002]), and the case cited by plaintiffs does not represent a change in decisional law (see Hospital for Joint Diseases v Travelers Prop. Cas. Ins. Co., 9 NY3d 312, 319 n 5 [2007]). Moreover, plaintiffs failed to present a reasonable justification for their lengthy four-year delay in seeking renewal (see Levy v New York City Health & Hosps. Corp., 40 AD3d 359, 360 [2007], lv dismissed 9 NY3d 1001 [2007]).

Devonshire Surgical Facility & Carnegie Hill Orthopedic Servs., P.C. v American Tr. Ins. Co., 2011 NY Slip Op 50512(U)(App. Term, 1st 2011)

Plaintiffs appeal from an order of the Civil Court of the City of New York, New York County (Arlene P. Bluth, J.), dated June 4, 2008, which denied their motion for summary judgment on the complaint.

Per Curiam.

Order (Arlene P. Bluth, J.), dated June 4, 2008, reversed, without costs, and summary judgment is granted in favor of plaintiff Devonshire Surgical Facility in the principal sum of $3,000, and plaintiff Carnegie Hill Orthopedic Services, P.C. in the principal sum of $11,929.08. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly.

In this action to recover assigned first-party no-fault benefits, plaintiffs Carnegie Hill Orthopedic Services, P.C. and Devonshire Surgical Facility established their prima facie entitlement to summary judgment on their respective claims for $11,929.08, and $3,000 (see Insurance Law § 5106[a]; Mary Immaculate Hosp. v Allstate Ins. Co., 5 AD3d 742 [2004]). Specifically, defendant's documentary submissions established its receipt of plaintiffs' claims and that the claims were overdue (see Fair Price Med. Supply, Inc. v St. Paul Travelers Ins. Co., 16 Misc 3d 8, 9 [2007]; Devonshire Surgical Facility v American Tr. Ins. Co., 27 Misc 3d 137[A], 2010 NY Slip Op 50867[U] [2010]).

In opposition to the plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, defendant, which was precluded under a so-ordered stipulation from offering certain evidence pertaining to its defense of lack of medical necessity (see Wilson v Galicia Contr. & Restoration Corp., 10 NY3d 827, 830 [2008]), failed to raise a triable issue of fact (see Mary Immaculate Hosp. v Allstate Ins. Co., 5 AD3d at 743; Devonshire Surgical Facility, supra). Accordingly, plaintiffs were entitled to judgment in their favor.

This is the first time I've seen anyone try SJ on the complaint (CPLR 3213)

Devonshire Surgical Facility, Carnegie Hill Orthopedic Servs., P.C. v American Tr. Ins. Co., 2011 NY Slip Op 50513(U)(App. Term, 1st 2011)

In opposition, defendant failed to raise a triable issue of fact. Even assuming that defendant issued timely denials of plaintiffs' claims (see Country-Wide Ins. Co. v Zablozki, 257 AD2d 506 [1999], lv denied 93 NY2d 809 [1999]), the peer review report relied upon by defendant to deny plaintiffs' claims is conclusory and fails to set forth sufficient facts to raise triable issues with respect to its defense of lack of medical necessity (see East Coast Acupuncture Servs., P.C. v American Tr. Ins. Co., 14 Misc 3d 135[A], 2007 NY Slip Op 50213[U][2007]).

Devonshire Surgical Facility & Carnegie Hill Orthopedic Servs., P.C. v American Tr. Ins. Co., 2011 NY Slip Op 50514(U)(App. Term, 1st 2011)

Order (Arlene P. Bluth, J.), dated June 4, 2008, modified to grant (1) summary judgment in favor of plaintiff Devonshire Surgical Facility in the principal sum of $3,000 and (2) partial summary judgment in favor of plaintiff Carnegie Hill Orthopedic Services, P.C. in the principal sum of $7,835.29; and, as so modified, order affirmed without costs. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment accordingly (see Devonshire Surgical Facility v American Tr. Ins. Co., Cal. No. 11-012, decided simultaneously herewith).

Another SJ on the complaint.

Stephen Matrangalo, DC, PC v Allstate Ins. Co., 2011 NY Slip Op 50517(U)(App. Term, 1st 2011)

Plaintiff, a chiropractic practice, commenced this action to recover assigned first-party no-fault benefits for services rendered to its assignor, who sustained injuries in a January 2009 automobile accident. The assignor was referred to plaintiff by a non-party practitioner. Defendant-insurer moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint pursuant to Public Health Law § 238-a, claiming that plaintiff may not recover for the services rendered to the assignor because the referring practitioner had a "financial relationship" with plaintiff (see Public Health Law § 238-a[1][a], [b]). Civil Court granted the motion, and we now reverse.

Public Health Law § 238-a prohibits a practitioner from making a referral to a health care provider where the referring practitioner (or immediate family member of such practitioner) has a "financial relationship" with the health care provider (Public Health Law § 238-a[1][a]). A "financial relationship" is defined in section 238(3) of the Public Health Law as "an ownership interest, investment interest or compensation arrangement." Critically, a "compensation arrangement" means "any arrangement involving any remuneration between a practitioner, or immediate family member, and a health care provider" (Public Health Law § 238-a[5][a]), but does not include "payments for the rental or lease of office space" if there is a lease that meets specific enumerated requirements, i.e., is in writing, for a term of at least one year, with a rent consistent with fair market value and not based upon the volume or value of any referrals, and would be commercially reasonable even if no referrals were made (Public Health Law § 238-a[5][b][i]).

The evidence submitted by defendant in support of its motion failed to establish, prima facie, that there was any "financial relationship" between plaintiff and the referring practitioner. No allegation is made that there was any "ownership interest" or "investment interest" between [*2]plaintiff and the referring practitioner. Although defendant submitted some unparticularized evidence indicating that plaintiff leased unspecified office space from various unnamed physicians in 2007 — two years prior to the underlying referral — defendant's limited submission failed to establish that there was any "compensation arrangement" in general or any "payments for the rental or lease of office space" in particular, between plaintiff and the referring practitioner. Since defendant failed to meet its initial burden of establishing as a matter of law its defense pursuant to Public Health Law § 238-a, the motion for summary judgment should have been denied regardless of the sufficiency of plaintiff's opposing papers (see Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Center, 64 NY2d 851, 853 [1985]).

The Appellate Term, Second Department put out a few decisions as well.

A.M. Med. Servs., P.C. v Allstate Ins. Co., 2011 NY Slip Op 50436(U) (App. Term, 2nd, 11th & 13 Jud. Dists. 2011) 

In this action to recover assigned first-party no-fault benefits, the Civil Court (Diccia T. Pineda-Kirwan, J.), after a nonjury trial, awarded plaintiff "the sum of $10,196 plus statutory interest and attorney's fees." Thereafter, plaintiff filed a proposed judgment which included, among other things, the sum of $4,259.42 in attorney's fees.

On October 24, 2006, defendant filed a "Rejection of Proposed Judgment." In that rejection, defendant stated, insofar as is relevant to this appeal, that the award of attorney's fees should be limited to the sum of $850. On October 30, 2006, plaintiff received two checks from defendant, one in the amount of $27,173 (representing the principal plus interest) and one in the amount of $915 (representing attorney's fees of $850 plus filing fees), which plaintiff deposited. On December 4, 2006, a judgment was entered in favor of plaintiff, which included, among other things, the sum of $4,259.42 in attorney's fees. Thereafter, plaintiff submitted the judgment to the marshal's office for collection of the balance due thereunder, and the marshal sent a notice of execution to defendant. Upon receiving the notice, defendant moved, in effect, to vacate the notice of levy and sale of its property. By order entered July 21, 2009, the Civil Court (Maureen A. Healy, J.) granted defendant's motion. This appeal by plaintiff ensued.

A review of defendant's moving papers indicates that defendant sought to challenge so much of the judgment as had awarded plaintiff attorney's fees in the sum of $4,259.42. In LMK Psychological Servs., P.C. v State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. (12 NY3d 217 [2009]), the Court of [*2]Appeals reversed an order of the Appellate Division, Third Department (46 AD3d 1290 [2007]), which had held that attorney's fees in a no-fault action should be calculated on a per-claim, not a per-assignor, basis. Giving effect to an opinion letter of the Superintendent of Insurance (Ops General Counsel NY Ins. Dept. No. 03-10-04 [Oct. 2003]) which interpreted the Insurance Department regulation (Insurance Department Regulations [11 NYCRR] § 65-4.6) establishing the amount of statutory attorney's fees (Insurance Law § 5106 [a]) to be awarded, the Court of Appeals held that attorney's fees in no-fault actions are to be calculated based on the aggregate of all of the bills submitted by a provider with respect to each insured in any action, up to a maximum of $850. Since the regulation and the opinion letter of the Superintendent of Insurance fixing the proper method for calculating the amount to be awarded as attorney's fees pursuant to the regulation were extant at the time the judgment in the case at bar was entered; the Appellate Division ruling had not yet been handed down; the issue of the proper calculation of the attorney's fees due plaintiff had not at that time been determined by the court; and the assessment of the statutory attorney's fees pursuant to the Insurance Department regulation was, in essence, a ministerial matter, the clerk's mistake in entering a judgment which included attorney's fees in the sum of $4,259.42 was properly subject to correction by the Civil Court pursuant to CPLR 5019 (see Kiker v Nassau County, 85 NY2d 879 [1995] cf. Bank of NY v Carlucci, 289 AD2d 349 [2001] [where attorney's fees are not statutorily fixed, an award of attorney's fees is a substantive part of a judgment not subject to correction pursuant to CPLR 5019 (a)]). Accordingly, the order is affirmed and the matter is remitted to the Civil Court for the entry of a corrected judgment awarding plaintiff attorney's fees in the sum of $850.

Alur Med. Supply, Inc. v GEICO Ins. Co., 2011 NY Slip Op 50438(U) (App. Term, 2nd, 11th & 13 Jud. Dists. 2011)

The affidavit submitted by defendant's claims examiner in opposition to plaintiff's motion and in support of defendant's cross motion was sufficient to establish that defendant's claim denial forms, which denied plaintiff's claims on the ground that the equipment provided was not medically necessary, were timely mailed in accordance with defendant's standard office practices and procedures (see St. Vincent's Hosp. of Richmond v Government Empls. Ins. Co., 50 AD3d 1123 [2008]; Residential Holding Corp. v Scottsdale Ins. Co., 286 AD2d 679 [2001]; Delta Diagnostic Radiology, P.C. v Chubb Group of Ins., 17 Misc 3d 16 [App Term, 2d & 11th Jud Dists 2007]). The fact that there were handwritten notations on the claim denial forms did not [*2]affect their validity, and defendant was not, under these circumstances, required to provide a further explanation.

In addition, the affirmed peer review reports submitted by defendant's doctors were sufficient to establish a lack of medical necessity as they provided a factual basis and medical rationale for the doctors' determinations that there was a lack of medical necessity for the medical equipment at issue (see Delta Diagnostic Radiology, P.C. v Integon Natl. Ins. Co., 24 Misc 3d 136[A], 2009 NY Slip Op 51502[U] [App Term, 2d, 11th & 13th Jud Dists 2009]; Delta Diagnostic Radiology, P.C. v American Tr. Ins. Co., 18 Misc 3d 128[A], 2007 NY Slip Op 52455[U] [App Term, 2d & 11th Jud Dists 2007]). Contrary to plaintiff's assertions, the fact that the peer reviewers took into consideration medical records of other providers in formulating their opinions did not render the peer review reports inadmissible (see Urban Radiology, P.C. v Tri-State Consumer Ins. Co., 27 Misc 3d 140[A], 2010 NY Slip Op 50987[U] [App Term, 2d, 11th & 13th Jud Dists 2010]).

Since defendant established, prima facie, a lack of medical necessity for the equipment in question, the burden shifted to plaintiff to rebut defendant's prima facie showing (see Alur Med. Supply, Inc. v Clarendon Natl. Ins. Co., 27 Misc 3d 132[A], 2010 NY Slip Op 50700[U] [App Term, 2d, 11th & 13th Jud Dists 2010]; Pan Chiropractic, P.C. v Mercury Ins. Co., 24 Misc 3d 136[A], 2009 NY Slip Op 51495[U] [App Term, 2d, 11th & 13th Jud Dists 2009]). In opposition to defendant's cross motion, plaintiff submitted an affirmation from a doctor, which was sufficient to raise a triable issue of fact as to medical necessity (see Park Slope Med. & Surgical Supply, Inc. v New York Cent. Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 22 Misc 3d 141[A], 2009 NY Slip Op 50441[U] [App Term, 2d, 11th & 13th Jud Dists 2009]; cf. A. Khodadadi Radiology, P.C. v NY Cent. Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 16 Misc 3d 131[A], 2007 NY Slip Op 51342[U] [App Term, 2d & 11th Jud Dists 2007]). In view of the foregoing, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment should have been denied, and we leave undisturbed the denial of defendant's cross motion.

Pomona Med. Diagnostics, P.C. v Travelers Ins. Co., 2011 NY Slip Op 50447(U) (App. Term, 2nd, 11th & 13 Jud. Dists. 2011)

The affidavit of defendant's litigation claims examiner established that defendant had timely mailed its request and follow-up request for verification to plaintiff (see Insurance Department Regulations [11 NYCRR] § 65-3.5 [b]; § 65-3.6 [b]) in accordance with defendant's standard office practices and procedures (see St. Vincent's Hosp. of Richmond v Government Empls. Ins. Co., 50 AD3d 1123 [2008]; Delta Diagnostic Radiology, P.C. v Chubb Group of Ins., 17 Misc 3d 16 [App Term, 2d & 11th Jud Dists 2007]). The mere denial by plaintiff's medical biller of receipt of the verification requests did not overcome the presumption that proper mailing had occurred and that plaintiff had received the verification requests (see Schmiemann v State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 13 AD3d 514 [2004]; Morales v Yaghoobian, 13 AD3d 424 [2004]; Truscello v Olympia Constr., 294 AD2d 350 [2002]). Since plaintiff did not serve responses to the verification requests prior to the commencement of the action, defendant's motion for [*2]summary judgment dismissing the complaint was properly granted, as defendant's time to pay or deny the claims had not begun to run (see Insurance Department Regulations [11 NYCRR] § 65-3.8 [a]; Hospital for Joint Diseases v New York Cent. Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 44 AD3d 903 [2007]; Central Suffolk Hosp. v New York Cent. Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 24 AD3d 492 [2005]; Hospital for Joint Diseases v State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 8 AD3d 533 [2004]).

And there was a very interesting decision from a lower court.

Novacare Med. P.C. v Travelers Prop. Cas. Ins. Co., 2011 NY Slip Op 50500(U) (Dist Ct Nassau County, Second Dist)

In short, there appears to be no basis in the law, and no basis in logic, for accepting an affirmed peer review doctor's opinion, carte blanche, without scrutinizing the report's contents. As plaintiff's counsel cogently argues, "[e]very peer review report is different and requires individual scrutiny to determine whether or not in contains a [sufficient] factual basis and medical rationale." The Court agrees that such scrutiny is necessary and appropriate before it decides whether the burden should be shifted back to the plaintiff to submit contrary expert proof. If the plaintiff can demonstrate, through references to the medical records or otherwise, that the peer review doctor's opinion lacks a sufficient "factual basis" and/or "medical rationale" because it is conclusory, or because it fails to address essential factual issues or is based upon disputed or apparently incorrect facts, the defendant's motion should be denied regardless of whether plaintiff submits expert proof of its own.

In the instant matter, plaintiff's opposition points to such shortcomings in the peer review report. The peer review doctor's opinion rests, in large part, upon his factual assumption that the medical records failed to document "persistent radicular symptoms". However, as plaintiff's counsel demonstrates, this assertion is contradicted by the very medical records that defendant's expert reviewed.

Notably, the reports of claimant's treating physicians document, over a course of nearly a month, the persistence of radiating pain in claimant's neck and back. Several weeks after claimant's accident, his family physician, Dr. Grigoran, performed a physical examination which resulted in an assessment of "cervical radiculopothy." Upon Dr. Grigoran's referral to a neurologist, Dr. Kahn, claimant was examined again. Despite having undergone weeks of conservative treatment, claimant was still suffering from "frequent" neck and back pain, accompanied by "numbness". A cervical compression test was "positive" for "radicular symptomology." So, too, the results of a Spurling test were reported as "positive".

In light of theses symptoms and test results, Dr. Kahn's diagnosis included findings of "Cervical/Lumbar radiculopothy," and "Cervical radiculitis." His recommendations included the performance of EMG/NCS tests of the cervical/lumbar spine and upper/lower extremities "to elucidate the degree and location of compression on existing nerve roots and peripheral nerves." Not surprisingly, the electro-diagnostic test results revealed "an abnormal study, consistent with a left C5-6 and right L4-5 and L5-S1 radiculopothy."

When such test results are viewed together with claimant's well documented medical history, it is difficult to accept, at face value, the peer review doctor's factual assumption that he found no evidence of "persistent radicular symptoms" which may have justified Dr. Kahn's decision to recommend electro-diagnostic testing. Moreover, in the peer doctor's description of the accepted standards and protocols for electro-diagnostic testing, defendant's peer review doctor acknowledges that such tests may be medically appropriate for patients whose radicular symptoms "are persistent or unresponsive to initial conservative treatments."

In the face of the medical record evidence, cited above, and the absence of proof of a more definitive, clear cut standard for prescribing electro-diagnostic tests, plaintiff's opposition makes a convincing case that defendant's moving papers fail to meet its burden. To a significant extent, the peer review doctor's opinion rests upon conclusory assumptions and disputed or incorrect facts. Consequently, such an opinion, by itself, is insufficient to prove defendant's entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on its lack of medical necessity defense. In these circumstances, the absence of opposing expert proof from plaintiff is immaterial.

 

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