Absolutely horrible decisionMarch 8, 2020

New Age Med., P.C. v GEICO Gen. Ins. Co.., 2020 NY Slip Op 50316(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2020)

I am not the Gecko’s biggest defender for many reasons, but this takes the prize for what I have to call a bad decision and one that the Second Department might even look at if an application is made. I say might because they hate granting leave to no-fault cases, but this is so ridiculous that I hope they do.

The facts as I can tell (again New York refuses to join every other state and make all their Court’s e-file friendly) is that Geico’s answer was timely but the index number was wrong. Here is irony: before NY moved to file and serve in the lower courts 15 years ago, carriers received summonses without an index number.

Anyway, Plaintiff was looking to score an easy default and rejected the answer because the index number was wrong. Now, if the absence of an out of state certificate of conformity or a caption is a non-actionable defect, why should the wrong index or docket number be treated any differently? It is careless but not enough to put someone into default.

Well Geico waits a year to fix their mistake. The Civil Court and Appellate Term sanction the default and the ensuing clerk’s judgment. I am sorry but this is a crazy decision because I cannot even fathom how Geico, in the first instance, was in default.

“Upon the record presented, we agree with the Civil Court that defendant failed to explain why defendant had waited a year after its initial answer was rejected before serving a new answer bearing the correct index number. Consequently, we find that defendant failed to demonstrate a reasonable excuse for its default and, therefore, we need not consider whether defendant offered a potentially meritorious defense to the action “

Part of me understands and has fallen victim to what I think is a very tight leash on the vacatur of defaults in no-fault matters. The cases are small, the volume is horrific at times and the cases at best only involve redistribution of wealth. The bigger picture is where is the right balance between mandating procedural regularity and preventing unbridled gamesmanship. This case sadly got it wrong and in a really big way. I could never fathom rejecting papers because someone put the wrong index or docket on the papers. Well, score one for lunacy.