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Causation – Be aware of seeking a trial de novo after a master arbitrator affirms an award October 11, 2008

State Farm v. Stack
2008 NY Slip Op 07651 (2d Dept. 2008)

“A no-fault arbitration tribunal twice concluded that the defendant, James Stack, was entitled to benefits arising from an automobile accident. Subsequently, the plaintiff, State Farm Automobile Insurance Company (hereinafter State Farm), commenced a de novo plenary action seeking a determination that medical expenses for Stack’s hospitalization were for a condition unrelated to the accident and that Stack failed to demonstrate his entitlement to lost earnings.”

“An insurer seeking to deny no-fault benefits on the basis that a claimant’s condition is not causally related to an accident “has the burden to come forward with proof in admissible form to establish the . . . evidentiary foundation for its belief’ that the patient’s treated condition was unrelated to his or her automobile accident” (Mount Sinai Hosp. v Triboro Coach, 263 AD2d 11, 19-20). The testimony of State Farm’s expert witness, an anesthesiologist and pain management specialist, that his opinion was based solely upon a hospital discharge summary and insurance claim form, rendered his opinion speculative and of little probative value (see Gordon v Tibulcio, 50 AD3d 460).”

“In contrast, the testimony of Stack’s expert witness, a neurologist who based his opinion upon his examination of Stack and his review of Stack’s relevant medical records, including, inter alia, CT scans and magnetic resonance imaging, and determined that Stack’s symptoms first appeared within two weeks of the accident and progressively worsened, was sufficient to establish that Stack’s condition was causally related to the accident (see Scudera v Mahbubur, 299 AD2d 535, 536).”

Comment: Another case where the Appellate Courts are loathe to sustain an insurance carrier’s proof that a service is not causally related to a motor vehicle accident.

Avoid the invectives October 11, 2008

Great Wall Acupuncture, P.C. v General Assur. Co.
2008 NY Slip Op 28350 (App. Term 2d Dept. 2008)

This case has been commented on numerous times before. It is one of many Mallela discovery motions that are granted as long as there is some shred of evidence that there is an improper incorporation issue. This follows the recent Appellate Division case of One Beacon Ins. Group, LLC v. Midland Medical Care, P.C., 2008 N.Y. Slip Op. 06813 (2d Dept. 2008), which held as follows:

“However, in opposition to the motion, the plaintiffs submitted sufficient evidentiary proof to raise an issue of fact as to whether Proscan was actually controlled by a management company owned by unlicensed individuals in violation of the Business Corporation Law”Accordingly, the appellants’ motion for summary judgment was properly denied with respect to all three causes of action, which allege fraudulent incorporation.”

“The Supreme Court properly granted that branch of the plaintiffs’ cross motion which was for disclosure of certain financial documents. Contrary to the appellants’ contention, the plaintiffs were not required to make a showing of “good cause” for such disclosure”

I like this case for the following quotation: “Although plaintiff contends that the court erred in denying the cross motion for an order sanctioning defendant and defendant’s counsel, in our opinion, the court providently exercised its discretion. We remind plaintiff’s counsel that “[f]rivolous conduct shall include the making of a frivolous motion for costs and sanctions” (Rules of the Chief Administrator [22 NYCRR] § 130-1.1). We further caution plaintiff’s counsel to refrain from including invective and ad hominem attacks in his papers.”

Fee schedule defense – competent evidence? October 11, 2008

OS Tigris Acupuncture, P.C. v Liberty Mut. Insurance Co.
2008 NY Slip Op 51996(U)(App. Term 1st Dept. 2008)

“Nor did defendant produce competent evidence in support of its defense of nonconformity with the applicable fee schedule (see Continental Med. P.C. v Travelers Indem. Co., 11 Misc 3d 145[A], 2006 NY Slip Op 50841[U] [2006])”

Comment: I am going to assume that the movant did not provide a copy of the applicable portions of the fee schedule and annex the Department of Insurance Letter allowing the carrier to pay the chiropractor or physician fee schedule for acupuncture or a geographical rate it deemed proper.

Fee schedule defense – Appellate Division gives due deference to the DOI October 11, 2008

Forrest Chen Acupuncture Services, P.C. v. GEICO Ins. Co.
2008 N.Y. Slip Op. 07211 (2d Dept. 2008)

“Furthermore, the defendant made a prima facie showing of its entitlement to summary judgment dismissing the complaint by submitting evidentiary proof that no fee schedule for the reimbursement of acupuncture treatments existed in 2001, and that it properly limited payment to “charges permissible for similar procedures under schedules already adopted” (11 NYCRR 68.5[b]; see Insurance Law § 5108; Ops Gen Counsel N.Y. Ins Dept No. 04-10-03 [October 2004] ). In opposition to the cross motion, the plaintiff failed to raise an issue of fact as to whether reimbursement for its acupuncture services was properly limited.”

Comment: I would opine that “competent evidence” to support a prima facie fee schedule defense would include (besides a timely denial) the following: (a) Pertinent portion of the fee schedule including conversion factor and CPT Codes with relative values; (b) DOI letter indicating it is proper; and (c) Affidavit from claims examiner indicating compliance with the foregoing.