Expertly Fryed and a little precluded

Matter of Bausch & Lomb Contact Lens Solution Prod. Liab. Litig., 2011 NY Slip Op 06460 (1st Dept., 2011)

Plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of showing at the Frye hearing (Frye v United States, 293 F 1013 [1923]) that their experts' opinions that defendant's soft contact lens solution ReNu with MoistureLoc (Renu ML) was causally related to a rise in non-Fusarium corneal infections were generally accepted by the relevant medical or scientific community (see Pauling v Orentreich Med. Group., 14 AD3d 357 [2005], lv denied 4 NY3d 710 [2005]; Lara v New York City Health & Hosps. Corp., 305 AD2d 106 [2003]; see also Marso v Novak, 42 AD3d 377 [2007], lv denied 12 NY3d 704 [2009]). They submitted no "controlled studies, clinical data, medical literature, peer review or supporting proof" of their theory (Saulpaugh v Krafte, 5 AD3d 934, 936 [2004], lv denied 3 NY3d 610 [2004]; Lara, 305 AD2d at 106).

Plaintiffs' experts contended that testing showed a reduced biocidal efficacy of ReNu ML under certain conditions. The experts then extrapolated from those results the conclusion that ReNu ML increased the risk of non-Fusarium infections. However, one of the experts stated in a published article that "contamination is not consistently correlated with a higher rate of microbial keratitis" (Levey and Cohen, Methods of Disinfecting Contact Lenses to Avoid Corneal Disorders, Survey of Ophthalmology, Vol. 41, No. 3, at 296 [1996]). In addition, from a certain study in which a film was found to protect Fusarium, plaintiffs' experts concluded that the film similarly would protect other microorganisms. However, plaintiffs' microbiologist conceded that different types of microorganisms have different needs and respond  differently to different conditions.

Moreover, despite four studies conducted on keratitis infections during the relevant period, plaintiffs introduced no epidemiological evidence of a rise in non-Fusarium infections. The court properly excluded plaintiffs' epidemiologist from explaining this lack of an epidemiological signal, because the testimony had not been previously disclosed by plaintiffs and would have surprised defendant. Additionally, plaintiffs failed to demonstrate good cause for their failure to disclose the testimony (see CPLR 3101[d]; LaFurge v Cohen, 61 AD3d 426 [2009], lv denied 13 NY3d 701 [2009]; Peguero v 601 Realty Corp., 58 AD3d 556, 564 [2009]).

The court properly quashed plaintiffs' subpoena of defendant's expert and former chief medical officer, because the expert had been deposed on three occasions, and plaintiffs failed to articulate any legitimate need for his live testimony (see Pena v New York City Tr. Auth., 48 AD3d 309 [2008]).

Nonnon v City of New York, 2011 NY Slip Op 06463 (1st Dept., 2011)

The Frye test is not concerned with the reliability of a particular expert's conclusions, but rather, with "whether the expert['s] deductions are based on principles that are sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance as reliable" (Nonnon I, 32 AD3d at 103 [internal quotation marks omitted]). General acceptance does not necessarily mean that a majority of the scientists involved subscribe to the conclusion, but that those espousing the theory or opinion have followed generally accepted scientific principles and methodology in reaching their conclusions.

***

Thus, so long as plaintiffs' experts have provided a "scientific expression" of plaintiff's exposure levels, they will have laid an adequate foundation for their opinions on specific causation (Jackson, 43 AD3d at 602 [internal quotation marks omitted]). For example, in Jackson, the court found that the plaintiffs' expert had laid a sufficient foundation for his opinion on causation where, inter alia, the expert was directly involved in the investigation of the potential health consequences of the underlying incident; co-authored a report based on the investigation and research that had been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, comparing the facts of the incident to those recorded in other studies; and opined that the manner in which DEAE had been fed into the steam system prior to the leak caused concentrated levels of the toxin to be released and that plaintiffs' symptoms were caused by DEAE exposure in a building.

Salman v Rosario, 2011 NY Slip Op 06323 (1st Dept., 2011)

Most important, plaintiff's orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Ehrlich, who performed arthroscopic surgery on plaintiff's knee only four months after the accident, opined that "to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the motor vehicle accident of 11/28/05 is the proximate cause of her condition, and not from a pre-existing or long standing degenerative process." Plaintiff's surgeon based this conclusion on his observations of plaintiff's knee during surgery (documented in the operative report plaintiff submitted on the original motion) and because plaintiff's MRI films (plaintiff submitted the MRI report on the original motion) did not depict the existence of osteophytes, show evidence of spondylosis or show other symptoms of degenerative processes. Thus, plaintiff's surgeon countered defendant's orthopedist's observation that plaintiff's injuries had no traumatic basis. Plaintiff's surgeon also documented range-of-motion limitations in the knee. Dr. Mian, who also conducted an orthopedic examination in 2008 and found deficits in plaintiff's range of motion, opined that the right knee tear was causally related to the accident. Thus, the evidence more than amply raised an issue of fact as to whether plaintiff had sustained a "serious injury" of a permanent nature to the right knee within the meaning of Insurance Law Section 5102(d).

Plaintiff's objective evidence of injury, four months post-accident, was sufficiently contemporaneous to establish that plaintiff had suffered a serious injury within the meaning of the statute. Dr. Ehrlich based his conclusions in large part on his actual observations of plaintiff's knee during the surgery he performed. This conclusion is significant because the doctor was able to see exactly what the injuries were. Moreover, in her affidavit, plaintiff stated that, prior to surgery, she had physical therapy five times a week for three months. It is not unreasonable to try to resolve an injury with physical therapy before resorting to surgery. The circumstances, i.e., plaintiff's initial medical exam that was close in time to the accident, her intensive physical therapy, her young age and eventual surgery, make the four months between the accident and plaintiff's objective medical evidence sufficiently contemporanous to withstand a motion for summary judgment (see Gonzalez v Vasquez, 301 AD2d 438 [2003] [examining physician's affirmation correlating motorist's neck and back pain two years after rear-end collision to quantified range of motion limitations found on physical examination and bulging and herniated discs described in MRI reports, and opining that motorist's symptoms were permanent, raised genuine issue of material fact as to whether motorist suffered serious injury]; see also Rosario v Universal Truck & Trailer Serv., 7 AD3d 306, 309 [2004]).

However, defendants did establish, prima facie, that plaintiff did not suffer a 90/180-day injury, and plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact, given her testimony that she was out of work for only three days (see Pou v E & S Wholesale Meats, Inc., 68 AD3d 446, 447 [2009]).

All concur except Román, J. who dissents in a memorandum as follows:

ROMÁN, J. (dissenting)

To the extent that the majority concludes that renewal of the motion court's order granting summary judgment in favor of Kanate was warranted, and that upon renewal Garcia's evidence precluded summary judgment, I dissent. Here, renewal would only have been warranted in the interest of justice, and to the extent that Garcia's evidentiary submission on renewal failed to establish any injury contemporaneous with her accident, renewal should have been denied.

To the extent that Garcia submitted medical evidence failing to establish treatment earlier than January 25, 2006, two months after this accident, Garcia failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether she sustained a serious injury because she failed to submit competent and admissible medical evidence of injury contemporaneous with her accident (see Ortega v Maldonado, 38 AD3d 388, 388 [2007]; Toulson v Young Han Pae, 13 AD3d 317, 319 [2004]; Alicea v Troy Trans, Inc., 60 AD3d 521, 522 [2009]; Migliaccio v Miruku, 56 AD3d 393, 394 [2008]). Accordingly, the motion court properly granted Kanate's initial motion for summary judgment with respect to all categories of injury under Insurance Law § 5102.

On her motion to renew, seeking to remedy shortcomings in her prior submission, Garcia tendered, inter alia, medical records, not previously submitted, purportedly evincing medical treatment contemporaneous with her accident. Specifically and to the extent relevant here, on renewal Garcia submitted records evincing a medical examination occurring a month after her accident. Nothing submitted competently evinced medical treatment at anytime prior thereto. A motion to renew "must be based upon additional material facts which existed at the time the prior motion was made, but were not then known to the party seeking leave to renew, and, therefore, not made known to the court" (Foley v Roche, 68 AD2d 558, 568 [1979]). However, when the proponent of renewal seeks to proffer new evidence of which he/she was previously aware but did not provide to the court on a prior motion, renewal may be granted if the interest of justice so dictate (Tishman Constr. Corp. of N.Y. v City of New York, 280 AD2d 374, 376-377 [2001]; Mejia v Nanni, 307 AD2d 870, 871 [2003]). Generally, the interest of justice require renewal when the newly submitted evidence changes the outcome of the prior motion. Here, Garcia sought renewal in order to have the motion court consider evidence previously known to her. Accordingly, renewal would have only been warranted if it served the interest of justice. At best, Garcia's medical evidence of injury on renewal established medical treatment beginning no sooner than a month after her accident. A medical examination occurring a month after an accident is not contemporaneous. Given its plain and ordinary meaning, contemporaneous means "existing, happening in the same period of time" (Webster's New World Dictionary 300 [3rd college ed 2004]). Accordingly, insofar as Garcia's evidence on renewal did not evince medical treatment contemporaneous with the accident, renewal in the interest of justice should have been denied.

The majority takes the untenable position that not only is Garcia's medical examination, occurring a month after the accident, contemporaneous with her accident, but paradoxically that the report of her surgeon, who did not see plaintiff for the first time until four months after her accident, is sufficient to establish the causal link between Garcia's knee injury and her accident such that she raised an issue of fact precluding summary judgment in Kanate's favor. First, if a medical examination occurring one month after an accident is not contemporaneous, then an examination occurring four months after an accident is certainly less so (Mancini v Lali NY, Inc., 77 AD3d 797, 798 [2010] [medical findings made by plaintiff's doctor four months after his accident not sufficiently contemporaneous with the accident to establish a serious injury]); Resek v Morreale, 74 AD3d 1043, 1044-145 [2010] [medical findings made by plaintiff's doctor five months after his accident not sufficiently contemporaneous with the accident to establish a serious injury]). Moreover, even if we assume that this report was temporally contemporaneous with her accident, it was nevertheless bereft of any objective, qualitative, or quantitative evidence of injury to her knee (Blackmon v Dinstuhl, 27 AD3d 241, 242 [2006]; Thompson v Abassi, 15 AD3d 95, 98 [2005]). Second, contrary to the majority's assertion, the report of Garcia's orthopedist might have been probative as to her knee injury on the date he performed surgery, but standing alone, his observations on that date could not have been probative as to whether that injury was caused by this accident (see Pommells v Perez, 4 AD3d 101, 101-102 [2004], affd 4 NY3d 566 [2005] [medical opinion as to causation is speculative when the record is bereft of any evidence establishing contemporaneous medical treatment and the doctor proffering opinion sees plaintiff for the first time after a substantial period of time since the accident]; Vaughan v Baez, 305 AD2d 101, 101 (2003); Shinn v Catanzaro, 1 AD3d 195, 198-199 [2003]; Komar v Showers, 227 AD2d 135, 136 [1996]).

The majority relies on two cases in support of its holding, Gonzalez v Vasquez (301 AD2d 438 [2003]) and Rosario v Universal Truck & Trailer Serv., Inc. (7 AD3d 306 [2004]), neither of which bears on the issue of contemporaneous medical treatment and both of which, to the extent that they allow a doctor to establish causation upon an initial examination conducted a substantial time after an accident, are at odds with Vaughan, Shinn, Komar and Pommells.

***

Footnote 1:Although the records from Dr. Cordaro's office are unsworn, it is of no moment. The documents are properly certified as business records (see Mayblum v Schwarzbaum, 253 AD2d 380 [1998]; CPLR 4518[a]), and are referenced only to show plaintiff's complaints and the doctor's referral rather than a medical opinion about a causal relation to the accident.

Matter of New York City 5201-Asbestos Litig., 2011 NY Slip Op 06296 (1st Dept., 2011)

Colgate seeks to question Dr. Sanborn about a hobby allegedly involving asbestos that she mentioned in her consultation note on Karen Tedrick. Dr. Sanborn wrote that "[Tedrick's] father had some sort of hobby activity or other project in the family basement as the patient was growing up, which the patient's brother reports did involve having asbestos in the basement." Tedrick's brother, Richard Konopka, has already been deposed, however, and testified that this hobby referred to a chemistry set that he owned as a teenager. Because the information sought from Dr. Sanborn is available from another source, we agree with the motion court that Dr. Sanborn's deposition should not be compelled (see Ramsey v New York Univ. Hosp. Ctr., 14 AD3d 349 [2005]; CPLR 3101[a][3]; 3101[a][4]).

Lugo v New York City Health & Hosps. Corp., 2011 NY Slip Op 06475 (2nd Dept., 2011)

A running theme throughout the Frye hearing was whether the experts considered the medical literature they had reviewed to be "authoritative." Although both Dr. Katz and Dr. Peyster testified that they did not consider any of the literature they had discussed to be "authoritative," Dr. Katz testified that the Volpe textbook and the articles he had addressed were the sources he would consult for the current science in the areas discussed at the hearing. Dr. Peyster testified that he did not consider any medical literature, including his own book, to be "authoritative" because that term implied that everything in the article or study was correct and was not subject to any further changes. Dr. Peyster's reluctance to apply this label to medical literature was echoed by the defendant's expert Dr. Jahre, who agreed that this term was not used frequently to describe medical literature and that doctors relied upon articles not considered to be "authoritative" to assess the state of the science.

***

In addition, we disagree with the Supreme Court's conclusion that the theory of causation espoused by the plaintiffs' experts lacked an adequate foundation for admissibility. "The Frye inquiry is separate and distinct from the admissibility question applied to all evidence—whether there is a proper foundation—to determine whether the accepted methods were appropriately employed in a particular case" (Parker v Mobil Oil Corp., 7 NY3d 434, 447; see People v Wesley, 83 NY2d at 428-429; Jackson v Nutmeg Tech., Inc., 43 AD3d 599, 601). "The focus moves from the general reliability concerns of Frye to the specific reliability of the procedures followed to generate the evidence proffered and whether they establish a foundation for the reception of the evidence at trial" (People v Wesley, 83 NY2d at 429). "The foundation . . . should not include a determination of the court that such evidence is true. That function should be left to the jury" (id. at 425).

****

The Supreme Court's conclusion that the opinion of the plaintiffs' experts lacked an adequate foundation rested largely on its findings that the evidence presented at the Frye hearing established that perinatal ischemia or hypoxia is the overwhelming cause of PVL and that the testimony of the plaintiffs' experts did not eliminate other "more likely possible causes" of Lugo's PVL. In relying upon such reasoning, the Supreme Court, in effect, rendered an assessment as to the ultimate merit of the opinion testimony of the plaintiffs' experts (see People v Wesley, 83 NY2d at 425). Clearly, numerous factual disagreements between the parties' experts were highlighted at the Frye hearing, including, but not limited to, the specific appearance of Lugo's brain MRI abnormalities and their cause. However, these factual disagreements go to the weight to be accorded to the testimony of the plaintiffs' experts by the trier of fact, and not the admissibility of such testimony (see Jackson v Nutmeg Tech., Inc., 43 AD3d at 602).

 

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