Oh, the Experts


Corcione v John Dominick Cusumano, Inc., 2011 NY Slip Op 04193 (App. Div., 2nd 2011)

The defendants failed to establish their prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law (see Alvarez v Prospect Hosp., 68 NY2d 320, 324; Winegrad v New York Univ. Med. Ctr., 64 NY2d 851, 852; Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 559). The defendants' examining physician, Dr. Isaac Cohen, concluded in his affirmed report that the plaintiff presented with resolved cervical and lumbar sprains, and that herniations and bulges noted in the plaintiff's magnetic resonance imaging (hereinafter MRI) reports were "of no clinical significance" and caused "no neural compromise." However, the MRI reports, which were reviewed by Dr. Cohen, refer to impingements on the lumbar and cervical neuro canal. Dr. Cohen's report fails to reconcile his conclusion of no neural compromise with the MRI reports reflecting cervical and lumbar neural canal impingements, rendering his opinion conclusory, speculative, and insufficient (see Damas v Valdes, ___ AD3d ___, 2011 NY Slip Op 03022 [2d Dept 2011]; Singh v City of New York, 71 AD3d 1121; Nicholson v Allen, 62 AD3d 766, 767; Zarate v McDonald, 31 AD3d 632, 633; Bennett v Genas, 27 AD3d 601; Giraldo v Mandanici, 24 AD3d 419, 420).

Artis v Lucas, 2011 NY Slip Op 03983 (App. Div., 2nd 2011)

The defendant failed to meet his prima facie burden of showing that the plaintiff did not sustain a serious injury within the meaning of Insurance Law § 5102(d) as a result of the subject accident (see Toure v Avis Rent A Car Sys., 98 NY2d 345; Gaddy v Eyler, 79 NY2d 955, 956-957). In support of his motion, the defendant relied upon, inter alia, the affirmed medical report of Dr. Alan M. Crystal. When this doctor examined the plaintiff in February 2010, he noted significant limitations in the range of motion of the lumbar region of the plaintiff's spine (see Ortiz v Orlov, 76 AD3d 1000, 1001; Cheour v Pete & Sals Harborview Transp., Inc., 76 AD3d 989; Smith v Hartman, 73 AD3d 736; Leopold v New York City Tr. Auth., 72 AD3d 906). Although Dr. Crystal indicated that the limitations noted were subjective in nature, he failed to explain or substantiate the basis for his conclusion that the noted limitations were self-imposed with any objective medical evidence (see Iannello v Vazquez, 78 AD3d 1121; Granovskiy v Zarbaliyev, 78 AD3d 656; cf. Perl v Meher, 74 AD3d 930; Bengaly v Singh, 68 AD3d 1030, 1031; Moriera v Durango, 65 AD3d 1024, 1024-1025; Torres v Garcia, 59 AD3d 705, 706; Busljeta v Plandome Leasing, Inc., 57 AD3d 469).

Since the defendant failed to meet his prima facie burden, it is unnecessary to determine whether the plaintiff's papers submitted in opposition were sufficient to raise a triable issue of fact (see Iannello v Vazquez, 78 AD3d at 1121; Ortiz v Orlov, 76 AD3d at 1001; Bengaly v Singh, 68 AD3d at 1031; Coscia v 938 Trading Corp., 283 AD2d 538).

Mazil v Quinones, 2011 NY Slip Op 04010 (App. Div, 2nd 2011)

In opposition, the plaintiffs submitted an affirmation from the injured plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Benjamin Cortijo, inter alia, affirming the truth of his "initial examination report" also submitted in opposition. Dr. Cortijo conducted contemporaneous and recent examinations of the lumbar region of the injured plaintiff's spine. During each examination, he performed certain testing, including range-of-motion testing, which, each time, revealed certain significant range-of-motion limitations of the lumbar region of the injured plaintiff's spine. Based on his findings, he concluded that the injured plaintiff sustained a permanent injury to the lumbar region of her spine as a result of the accident.

The plaintiffs also provided an adequate explanation for the cessation of the injured plaintiff's treatment (see Pommells v Perez, 4 NY3d 566, 574). Dr. Cortijo affirmed that any further  treatment would have been merely palliative in nature (id. at 577).

The plaintiffs' submissions raised a triable issue of fact as to whether the injured plaintiff sustained a serious injury to the lumbar region of her spine under the permanent consequential limitation of use and/or significant limitation of use categories of Insurance Law § 5102(d) (see Dixon v Fuller, 79 AD3d 1094, 1094-1095). Accordingly, the Supreme Court should have denied the defendants' separate motions for summary judgment dismissing the complaint.

Kukic v Grand, 2011 NY Slip Op 04168 (App. Div., 1st 2011)

In any event, the opinions in plaintiff's expert's affirmation identifying the manner in which the hospital staff deviated from good and accepted medical practice are speculative and wholly unsupported by the record (see DeFilippo v New York Downtown Hosp., 10 AD3d 521 [2004]).

Kopeloff v Arctic Cat, Inc., 2011 NY Slip Op 04007 (App. Div. 2nd 2011)

Contrary to the plaintiff's contention, the Supreme Court did not improvidently exercise its discretion in rejecting as untimely the expert affidavit he submitted in opposition to the motion for summary judgment (see CPLR 3101[d]). The plaintiff did not provide any excuse for failing to identify the expert in response to the plaintiff's discovery demands. Indeed, the defendant was unaware of the expert until the defendant was served with the expert's affidavit in response to its summary judgment motion, even though the record discloses that the expert had been retained by the plaintiff approximately 18 months earlier. Under such circumstances, the Supreme Court properly declined to consider the affidavit (see Vailes v Nassau County Police Activity League, Inc., Roosevelt Unit, 72 AD3d 804, 805;  Yax v Development Team, Inc., 67 AD3d 1003, 1004; Gerardi v Verizon N.Y., Inc., 66 AD3d 960; cf. Saldivar v I.J. White Corp., 46 AD3d 660, 661; Hernandez-Vega v Zwanger-Pesiri Radiology Group, 39 AD3d 710, 711; cf. also Browne v Smith, 65 AD3d 996; Howard v Kennedy, 60 AD3d 906). In any event, even if the affidavit of the plaintiff's expert could have properly been considered, the result would not have been different, inasmuch as the Supreme Court correctly concluded that it was speculative, conclusory, and partially based on evidence which is not in the record (see Micciola v Sacchi, 36 AD3d 869, 871; Guarino v La Shellda Maintenance Corp., 252 AD2d 514, 515; see also Wartski v C.W. Post Campus of Long Is. Univ, 63 AD3d 916, 917).

Stewart v World El. Co, Inc, 2011 NY Slip Op 03895 (App. Div., 1st 2011)

Defendants failed, prima facie, to establish entitlement to summary judgment. "An elevator company which agrees to maintain an elevator in safe operating condition may be liable to a passenger for failure to correct conditions of which it has knowledge or failure to use reasonable care to discover and correct a condition which it ought to have found" (Rogers v Dorchester Assoc., 32 NY2d 553, 559 [1973]). Defendants submitted virtually no evidence regarding the maintenance and inspection history of the elevator, either pre or post-accident. The only document produced in response to discovery requests was a "work log" which was referenced during the deposition of Kavanagh — who, notably, was not competent to testify concerning defendants' maintenance and inspection practices at the time of the incident — and which does not even appear in the record. A defendant is not entitled to summary judgment on notice grounds where there is a failure to present sufficient evidence regarding its maintenance procedures in respect of an allegedly malfunctioning elevator (see Green v City of New York, 76 AD3d 508 [2010]).

Even without defendants' failure, plaintiff's invocation of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur raised a triable issue of material fact. Plaintiff testified that the elevator dropped suddenly, causing him to fall. When he regained consciousness, he notified the building superintendent of the emergency, and had to be lowered to the lobby level, where several persons had to pry the door open. Certainly, this is the type of event that does not ordinarily happen in the absence of negligence, and plaintiffs are entitled to invoke the doctrine as against defendants based on plaintiff's testimony concerning the elevator malfunction (see e.g. Kleinberg v City of New York, 61 AD3d 436, 438 [2009] [free-falling elevator is not an event that ordinarily happens in the absence of negligence]; Miller v Schindler Elev. Corp., 308 AD2d 312 [2003] [applying doctrine where plaintiff testified that elevator dropped suddenly, causing her to fall, notwithstanding defendant's evidence that the elevator was functioning immediately after the incident]).

The case of Williams v Swissotel N.Y. (152 AD2d 457 [1989]) is instructive. In Williams, the plaintiff was injured when the elevator on which he was riding dropped nine stories and abruptly stopped just below the lobby floor landing. Although one of defendant's principals maintained, as here, that the accident as described by the plaintiff was "physically impossible" due to the existence of certain safety features and the findings of a post-accident inspection revealing no "telltale markings" on the elevator cable, this Court found that the testimony of plaintiff was sufficient to support application of the res ipsa doctrine, stating "the testimony of [plaintiff] as to how the elevator fell is sufficient evidence, if found credible by the trier of fact, to support the application of the doctrine" (id. at 458).

Plaintiff's testimony, as corroborated by the contemporaneous incident report and witness statement, was sufficient to allow a fact finder to determine that the misleveling and/or free-fall of the elevator was the kind of accident that would not ordinarily happen in the absence of negligence. Defendants had exclusive control over the mechanisms and devices in the elevator, and there is no evidence that the incident was due to any action on the part of plaintiff. The motion court thus erred in refusing to allow the case to proceed to trial on res ipsa loquitur grounds and in dismissing the complaint as a matter of law.

It was also error to dismiss the affidavit of plaintiffs' expert Clarke as "speculative." Clarke's affidavit was not speculative, but rather, constituted legitimate opposition by an opposing expert, refuting and challenging the claim that the accident was "physically and mechanically impossible." Mr. Clarke, who had 38 years of experience in elevator construction, installation, maintenance and repair, directly challenged the statements of D'Ambra that the accident was not physically or mechanically possible, and provided a list of possibilities that could have caused the misleveling, including mechanical functions that D'Ambra never ruled out, mentioned, or addressed. Further, D'Ambra, in rendering his expert opinion, entirely ignored the undisputed fact that it took twenty minutes to bring the elevator down to the lobby after it became stuck and that plaintiff's supervisor and several other security guards had to forcefully pry the doors open in order to free plaintiff.


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