Medical Reports: 22 NYCRR 202.17 [Ct. App.]

CPLR 3121(a)

CPLR 3101

CPLR 4411

22 NYCRR 202.17(b)(1)

Hamilton v Miller, 2014 NY Slip Op 04230 [2014]

In most personal injury cases, disclosure under this rule is straightforward. The injured plaintiff goes to the doctor for diagnosis and treatment. The doctor drafts a report. The plaintiff turns over the report to the defendant.

This case is more complicated. Plaintiffs allegedly suffered lead poisoning as children. Now adults, plaintiffs allege that their childhood exposure to lead caused them numerous injuries. It appears from the dearth of medical evidence in the record that plaintiffs may never have been treated for or diagnosed with many of the alleged injuries. This raises the question of what plaintiffs must disclose in order to comply with rule 202.17 (b) (1).

Plaintiffs argue that the rule requires them to turn over only those reports that currently exist from providers who have "previously treated or examined" them. They argue that they are not required to document or create medical evidence of every alleged injury. To the extent that plaintiffs are arguing that the rule does not obligate them to hire a medical provider to examine them and create a report solely for purposes of the litigations, we agree. Requiring a personal injury plaintiff to hire a medical professional to draft a report purely to satisfy 22 NYCRR 202.17 (b) (1) could make it prohibitively expensive for some plaintiffs to bring legitimate personal injury suits. Some plaintiffs may not be able to afford a medical examination or may not even have access to a doctor. Plaintiffs therefore need only produce reports from medical providers who have "previously treated or examined" them.

To the extent, however, that plaintiffs claim that they need to turn over only those medical reports that currently exist, we disagree. The rule obligates plaintiffs to provide comprehensive reports from their treating and examining medical providers — the reports "shall include a recital of the injuries and conditions as to which testimony will be offered at the trial" (22 NYCRR 202.17 [b] [1]) [emphasis added]). Plaintiffs therefore cannot avoid disclosure simply because their treating or examining medical providers have not drafted any reports within the meaning of rule 202.17 (b) (1) (see Ciriello v Virgues, 156 AD2d 417, 418 [2d Dept 1989] ["[T]he fact that a report never was prepared does not obviate the party's obligation under the rules"]; Davidson v Steer/Peanut Gallery, 277 AD2d 965, 965 [4th Dept 2000]; Pierson v [*3]Yourish, 122 AD2d 202, 203 [2d Dept 1986]). If plaintiffs' medical reports do not contain the information required by the rule, then plaintiffs must have the medical providers draft reports setting forth that information (see id.)[FN2]. If that is not possible, plaintiffs must seek relief from disclosure and explain why they cannot comply with the rule (see 22 NYCRR 202.17 [j]).

We conclude therefore that Supreme Court abused its discretion in requiring plaintiffs to provide medical evidence ofeach alleged injury or otherwise be precluded from offering evidence of that injury at trial. Supreme Court's motivation for granting that relief is understandable. Plaintiffs' counsel filed boilerplate bills of particulars and then did not disclose medical records substantiating the alleged injuries. To that end, plaintiffs should amend their respective bills of particulars to reflect those injuries actually sustained. Nonetheless, although Supreme Court had wide, inherent discretion to manage discovery, foster orderly proceedings, and limit counsel's gamesmanship (see Kavanagh v Ogden Allied Maintenance Corp., 92 NY2d 952, 954 [1998]), the ordered relief exceeded the court's power.

Supreme Court also granted relief beyond that contemplated by rule 22 NYCRR 202.17 (b) (1) by requiring plaintiffs to produce, prior to the defense examination, a medical report causally relating plaintiffs' injuries to lead paint exposure or be precluded from offering proof of such injuries at trial. The rule requires that the medical reports "include a recital of the injuries and the conditions as to which testimony will be offered at the trial, . . . including a [*4]description of the injuries, a diagnosis, and a prognosis." There is no requirement that medical providers causally relate the injury to the defendant's negligence or, in this case, the lead paint exposure.

If determining causation requires evidence from a medical professional, causation is more appropriately dealt with at the expert discovery phase and pursuant to CPLR 3101 (d). If defendants wish to expedite expert discovery, they can move in Supreme Court for amendment of the scheduling orders. Should plaintiffs fail to produce any evidence of causation, then defendants can move for and obtain summary judgment.

Supreme Court properly denied plaintiff Hamilton's CPLR 4511 motion to take judicial notice of 42 USC § 4851. That provision contains Congress's findings justifying legislation aimed at reducing lead — findings such as: "at low levels, lead poisoning in children causes intelligence quotient deficiencies, reading and learning disabilities, impaired hearing, reduced attention span, hyperactivity, and behavior problems;" and "the Federal Government must take a leadership role in building the infrastructure—including an informed public, State and local delivery systems, certified inspectors, contractors, and laboratories, trained workers, and available financing and insurance—necessary to ensure that the national goal of eliminating lead-based paint hazards in housing can be achieved as expeditiously as possible" (42 USC § 4851 [2], [8]). Hamilton apparently sought judicial notice of the federal provision in order to avoid having to prove general causation — that lead paint exposure can cause some or all of his alleged injuries.

CPLR 4511 allows a court to take notice of federal and foreign state law, not facts, that is relevant to a proceeding (CPLR 4511; Pfleuger v Pfleuger, 304 NY 148, 151 [1952]). The congressional findings in support of legislation seeking to reduce amounts of lead in homes, though codified in a federal statute, are not "law" that is relevant to Hamilton's case. Taking judicial notice of them under CPLR 4511 would be inappropriate.

What Hamilton really wanted was to have Supreme Court take judicial notice of the fact that exposure to lead paint can cause injury. "To be sure, a court may take judicial notice of facts which are capable of immediate and accurate determination by resort to easily accessible sources of indisputable accuracy" (People v Jones, 73 NY2d 427, 431 [1989] [internal quotation marks omitted]). But general causation, at least in scientifically complex cases, is not such a fact. Hamilton needs to prove, through scientific evidence, that exposure to lead-based paint can cause the injuries of which he complains (see Parker v Mobile Oil Corp., 7 NY3d 434, 448 [2006]). He cannot avoid that burden simply because Congress, in statutory preambles, has opined on the dangers of lead-based paint.Accordingly, in each case, the order of the Appellate Division should be modified, without costs, by remitting to Supreme Court for further [*5]proceedings in accordance with this opinion and, as so modified, affirmed, and the certified question answered in the negative.

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