Matter of Matter of Philadelphia Ins. Co. (Utica Natl. Ins. Group), 2012 NY Slip Op 05470 (4th Dept. 2012)
This is a coverage case with a vigorous, and I think an accurate dissent. There is never a shortage of dissenting opinions out of this Rochester based Court, and I am starting to believe the dissents out of this Court make more sense than the majority opinions. You will see that if you regularly read this blog. Regarding the case, I will break it down.
(1) Two car collision – it appears the possible livery vehicle is at fault. Philadelphia insures this vehicle;
(2) Utica is insurer for vehicle that the Injured victim was present inside, and Utica paid Assignor and/or assignee medical providers no-fault benefits;
(3) Utica files for 5105 intercompany arbitration;
(4) Philadelphia did not move for a permanent stay of arbitration;
(5) Philadelphia raised defense during arbitration: (a) Lack of Jurisdiction; (b) Claim not subject to Arbitration;
(6) Arb Forums rules in favor of Utica finding Philadelphia’s vehicle was a livery vehicle;
(7) Philadelphia files an Article 75 to vacate the award on the basis that Arb Forums was wrong on the law; and Utica cross-moves to confirm the award;
(8) Supreme Court grants the petition and vacates the award, awarding judgment in favor of Philadelphia;
(9) Utica Appeals and the Fourth Department reverses and dismisses the Petition;
(10) Fourth Department holds that Philadelphia should have moved to stay arbitration and waived its right to dispute the result of the arbitration because it raised jurisdictional defenses at Arb Forums;
(11) On the merits, the Fourth Department holds that Arb Forums’ finding that the vehicle was used as a livery vehicle has record support;
(12) Dissent dispels the jurisdictional argument; looks at this case from a less deferential viewpoint; and finds that Philadelphia’s vehicle was not being used as a livery vehicle, and would have affirmed Supreme Court’s granting of the petition.
If you read the opinion and are familiar with the wild west of arb forums, it seems that the dissents argument is more persuasive. Using what looked to be the inartful claims representative’s use of a legal term in a less than formal setting to preclude Article 75 relief seems to be over the top. On the merits, the dissent hit the nail on the head.
This one should go to the Court of Appeals and looks interesting.
Siegel v Landy, 2012 NY Slip Op 03625 (2d Dept. 2012)
There is a right to be able to present evidence at an arbitration…
“However, as the plaintiff correctly contends, the arbitration award, as modified, *3 should have been vacated on the ground that the arbitrator failed to follow the procedures set forth in CPLR article 75 (see CPLR 7511 [b][iv]). The plaintiff was effectively denied her right to notice, the opportunity to be heard, and the opportunity to present evidence (see CPLR 7506). Accordingly, the Supreme Court should have denied that branch of the defendants’ motion which was to confirm the award, as modified, and granted the plaintiff’s cross motion to vacate the award, as modified”
Matter of Mvaic v Interboro Med. Care & Diagnostic PC, 2010 NY Slip Op 04522 (1st Dept. 2010)
“MVAIC defended the arbitration on the ground that the police accident report showed that the offending vehicle was registered out-of-state and was insured, but the arbitrator refused to consider that defense on the merits on the ground that MVAIC had failed to pay or deny the claim within 30 days of its submission, as required by the no-fault law (Insurance Law § 5106[a]; 11 NYCRR 65-3.8[a]; [c]). This was contrary to settled law (see generally Matter of State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v Lumbermens Mut. Cas. Co., 18 AD3d 762, 763 ) recognizing a narrow exception to the 30-day deadline for defenses based on lack of coverage (Hospital for Joint Diseases v Travelers Prop. Cas. Ins. Co., 9 NY3d 312, 318 ). New York Hosp. Med. Ctr. of Queens v MVAIC (12 AD3d 429 [2d Dept 2004], lv denied 4 NY3d 705 ), relied on by the arbitrator, did not involve a lack of coverage issue.”
A few things should be observed. First, note the special treatment the courts give MVAIC as opposed to that given the insurance carriers that my fellow brethren and I regulalry defend. That being said, the Appellate Division correctly found the existence of a triable issue of fact as to coverage. But note how the Appellate Division, Second Department has insulated most arbitration awards from judicial scrutiny, whereas the First Department appears willing to look at the merits of an arbitral dispute.
Matter of Chin v State Farm Ins. Co., 2010 NY Slip Op 04186 (2d Dept. 2010)
“Consistent with the public policy in favor of arbitration, the grounds specified in CPLR 7511 for vacating or modifying a no-fault arbitration award are few in number and narrowly applied” (Matter of Mercury Cas. Co. v Healthmakers Med. Group, P.C., 67 AD3d 1017, 1017). “An arbitration award can be vacated by a court pursuant to CPLR 7511(b) on only three narrow grounds: if it is clearly violative of a strong public policy, if it is totally or completely irrational, or if it manifestly exceeds a specific, enumerated limitation on the arbitrator’s power” (Matter of Erin Constr. & Dev. Co., Inc. v Meltzer, 58 AD3d 729, 729; see Matter of United Fedn. of Teachers, Local 2, AFT, AFL-CIO v Board of Educ. of City School Dist. of City of N.Y., 1 NY3d 72, 79; Matter of Board of Educ. of Arlington Cent. School Dist. v Arlington Teachers Assn., 78 NY2d 33, 37; Cifuentes v Rose & Thistle, Ltd., 32 AD3d 816; Matter of Rockland County Bd. of Coop. Educ. Servs. v BOCES Staff Assn., 308 AD2d 452, 453). “An award is irrational if there is no proof whatever to justify the award'” (Matter of Erin Constr. & Dev. Co., Inc. v Meltzer, 58 AD3d at 730, quoting Matter of Peckerman v D & D Assoc., 165 AD2d 289, 296). “Even if the arbitrators misapply substantive rules of law or make an error of fact, unless one of the three narrow grounds applies in the particular case, the award will not be vacated” (Matter of Erin Constr. & Dev. Co., Inc. v Meltzer, 58 AD3d at 730; see Wien & Malkin LLP v Helmsley-Spear, Inc., 6 NY3d 471; Matter of Silverman [Benmor Coats], 61 NY2d 299, 308; Matter of Sprinzen [Nomberg], 46 NY2d 623, 629; Cifuentes v Rose & Thistle, Ltd., 32 AD3d at 821). “An arbitrator is not bound by principles of substantive law or rules of evidence, and may do justice and apply his or her own sense of law and equity to the facts as he or she finds them to be.”
If you think an arbitrator is going to be unfair, it is probably best to order a stenographer and obtain a transcript of the proceeding. A proper record never lies.
Matter of Travelers Indem. Co. v United Diagnostic Imaging, P.C., 2010 NY Slip Op 03944 (2d Dept. 2010)
“The test for ordering disclosure to aid in arbitration is “necessity,” as opposed to “convenience” (Hendler & Murray v Lambert, 147 AD2d 442, 443 [internal quotation marks omitted]). Thus, court-ordered disclosure to aid in arbitration is justified only where that relief is “absolutely necessary for the protection of the rights of a party” to the arbitration (Hendler & Murray v Lambert, 147 AD2d at 443 [internal quotation marks omitted]). [*2]
Here, the petitioner already has evidence sufficient to establish a potential defense in the arbitration proceedings (cf. 11 NYCRR 65-1.1[d], 65-3.2[c], 65-3.5[b], [c], [e]). Furthermore, the petitioner can potentially obtain the requested disclosure in the context of those proceedings (see 11 NYCRR 65-4.5[o]; cf. Matter of Katz [Burkin], 3 AD2d 238, 238-239). Finally, the record provides no indication that if a disclosure directive is made during those proceedings, the requested disclosure will, at that point, be unavailable (cf. Bergen Shipping Co., Ltd. v Japan Marine Servs., Ltd., 386 F Supp 430, 435 n 8). Under the circumstances, the petitioner failed to demonstrate the existence of extraordinary circumstances justifying court-ordered disclosure to aid in those proceedings. Accordingly, the Supreme Court improvidently exercised its discretion in granting the petition.”
The Appellate Division seems to be continuing its cruisade to insulate the arbitration forum from any collateral attack. Travelers Indem. Co. v. United Diagnostic Imaging, P.C., 70 A.D.3d 1043 (2d Dept. 2010); Mercury Cas. Co. v. Healthmakers Medical Group, P.C., 67 A.D.3d 1017 (2d Dept. 2010).
Also, look at the the regulagtory provisions that were delimited by a “c.f.” cite: 65-3.2(c) “Do not demand verification of facts unless there are good reasons to do so. When verification of facts is necessary, it should be done as expeditiously as possible.”; 65-1.1(d) “[Claimant shall] provide any other pertinent information that may assist the Company in determining the amount due and payable.”; 65-3.5 (allowing verification via EUO under the tight claims determinative time frames).
It appears that this might have been a Mallela case, and the Court was not willing to allow the same type of discovery in arbitral proceedings that it would allow in plenary actions. Compare, One Beacon Ins. Group, LLC v. Midland Medical Care, P.C., 54 A.D.3d 738 (2d Dept. 2008).
Also, note the purported ability to obtain discovery through the arbitration proceeding itself. We saw this doctrine enunciated in another context a few years ago. In re Progressive Northeastern Ins. Co. (New York State Ins. Fund), 56 A.D.3d 1111 (3d Dept. 2008). Yet, should the arbitrator refuse to grant you the sought after discovery, you are probably out of luck. See, Mercury Cas. Co. v. Healthmakers Medical Group, P.C..
Finally, without knowing what the proofs were in this matter, I cannot say that I necessarily agree or disagree with the outcome of the ultimate disposition of the case. I take issue, however, with the court denying discovery on the basis that the information could have been obtained during the claims determination phase, inasmuch as broad discovery is usually allowed where true coverage issues or non-precludable standing issues arise.
The failure to stay a compulsory arbitration on jurisdictional grounds precludes appellate review of the improperly arbitrated jurisdictional issue
In UM and SUM arbitration, it has been held that the failure to stay the arbitration within 20-days of the service of an intent to arbitrate waives the right to contest jurisdictional issues. We learn today that a modified rule holds true for UM arbitrations.
State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v Statewide Ins. Co., 2010 NY Slip Op 50588(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2010)
“Petitioner argued that the matter was not subject to mandatory arbitration since, although the application for arbitration alleged that its insured’s vehicle weighed over 6,500 pounds, its insured’s vehicle did not weigh more than 6,500 pounds (see Insurance Law § 5105 [a]). In a judgment entered January 14, 2009, the Civil Court denied the petition and dismissed the proceeding. The instant appeal by petitioner ensued.
Since petitioner failed to apply for a stay of arbitration prior to the arbitration, it waived its claim that the matter was not arbitrable under Insurance Law § 5105 (see Matter of Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. [Allstate Ins. Co.], 234 AD2d 901 ; see also Matter of Silverman [Benmor Coats], 61 NY2d 299 ; Matter of Utica Mut. Ins. Co. v Incorporated Vil. of Floral Park, 262 AD2d 565 ). Consequently, the petition to vacate the arbitration award was properly denied.”
The one thing that we can all say about Second Department practice, whether it be at the Appellate Term or the Appellate Division, is that the decision/orders of these courts never elucidate upon the facts of a given matter. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you are on the losing side of a case. But when a case has lived an interesting life, it would be nice to know what happened.
While the Appellate Division’s decision tells a different story, a review of the record of appeal in Mercury Cas. Co. v. Surgical Center at Milburn, LLC, 2009 N.Y. Slip Op. 06516 (2d Dept. 2009), shows us that this is not your every day run of the mill “default” case.
This case started as a $12,000 no-fault AAA arbitration, where the Defendant sought to recover for surgery services performed on its Assignor. Plaintiff denied the claim on the basis that the surgery was not causally related to the motor vehicle accident. In support of this defense, Plaintiff presented the report of a radiologist who, upon a review of the applicable MRI films, found that the injuries were pre-existing, degenerative and not related to the underlying motor vehicle accident.
The lower arbitrator, upon a review of the record, did not find the Plaintiff’s proof convincing and awarded Defendant the principle sum of $12,000, along with interest, costs and attorney fees. It is not uncommon these days for an insurance carrier to lose in arbitration.
Plaintiff, as would be expected, filed a master arbitral demand and perfected its master arbitral brief. Similarly, Defendant proceeded to perfect his master arbitral brief. Following due deliberation, the master arbitrator upheld the award of the lower arbitrator, finding that the award was not defective as a matter of law. This decision was probably correct.
Since the amount in controversy, however, exceeded $5,000, Plaintiff sought a trial de–novo. In this regard, a summons and complaint, fashioned as an action seeking a declaration that the surgery was not related to the motor vehicle accident, was filed with the Supreme Court and served upon Defendant. The action seeking a declaratory judgment spelled out the procedural history and the nature of the defense to the underlying no-fault claim.
Defendant failed to timely answer or move, and Plaintiff moved for leave to enter a default judgment against Defendant. Defendant opposed the motion, but failed to set forth a reasonable excuse or any evidence to support a potentially meritorious defense. All Defendant attached to his answering papers were the proofs he presented at the lower arbitration. In order to raise a potentially meritorious defense, Defendant would have had to obtain a radiology review that contradicted, point by point, Plaintiff’s own film review. As to the proof necessary to defeat a causation defense predicated upon a radiology review, please see my prior posts.
The Supreme Court denied Plaintiff’s motion. A notice of appeal was promptly filed. At the Appellate Division, Plaintiff moved to stay the Supreme Court case, pending the outcome and determination of the appeal. This motion was granted. The appeal was then perfected. Following due deliberation, the order of the Supreme Court was reversed and Plaintiff’s motion was granted. Consequently, the matter was remitted to the Supreme Court for the purpose of entering a judgment, declaring that the surgery was not causally related to the motor vehicle accident.
Here are a few thoughts. First, it would appear that the collateral estoppel consequences of this type of a decision are huge, as I have opined in previous posts. The second thing, and one of a practical matter, is that a demand for a trial de–novo, in this type of proceeding, should be commenced as a declaratory judgment type of action. There are other ways to commence a trial de-novo, but these methods are not as effective or efficient as commencing it through a declaratory judgment action.
The failure to serve a demand for master arbitral review in the manner set forth in the regulations will foreclose review of the underlying award
Matter of Progressive Northeastern Ins. Co. v Seaport Orthopedic Assn. 2009 NY Slip Op 31915(U)(Sup Ct NY Co. 2009)
In this case, a master arbitrator failed to consider the merits of the insurance carrier’s appeal since there was insufficient proof as to whether the demand for master arbitral review was sent via certified mail, return receipt requested, in accordance with 65-4.10. Petitioner commenced an Article 75 proceeding in Supreme Court, New York County, to vacate the award of the master arbitrator.
The Supreme Court confirmed the award of the master arbitrator. The Court found the following:
“Courts are reluctant to disturb the decisions of arbitrators lest the value of this
method of resolving controversies be undermined.” Goldfinger v. Linger, 68 N.Y.2d 225,230 (1986)(citations omitted). The Notice failed to set forth compliance with 11 N.Y.C.R.R. 65-4.10(d)(3) in that it failed to set forth the manner of service. There is no basis to vacate the award under CPLR § 7511. From the face of the Notice, the Master Arbitrator was within his power to hold that service was improper, and refuse to reach the merits of the decision of the lower arbitrator.”
The above rationale appears to be based upon the more deferential standard that applies to non-compulsory arbitrations, as opposed to the Article 78 standard that applies to the review of PIP arbitrations. It also appears that the Appellate Division, First Department, in Travelers Indem. Co. v. Rapid Scan Radiology, P.C., 61 A.D.3d 466 (1st Dept. 2009), already held that the failure to comply with certain service provisions in 65-4.10, is deemed de minimus, as recognized below:
“The master arbitrator did not exceed his authority and his determination was not arbitrary or capricious. As to petitioner’s claim that respondent did not comply with the filing requirements of 11 NYCRR 65-4.10 (d) (2) because it failed to state the nature of the claim and grounds for review and failed to include a copy of the lower arbitrator’s award, this was not the basis of their challenge before the master arbitrator. Further, no prejudice has been shown since the parties submitted memoranda fully apprising the master arbitrator of the issues at hand and of the lower arbitrator’s decision
While it is conceded that Rapid Scan served its request by regular mail, not certified mail as required by 11 NYCRR 65- *467 4.10 (d) (3), as the Supreme Court found, petitioner participated in the master arbitrator’s review and recognized in its own submission that the defect could be viewed as “de minimus and/or harmless.”
Hopefully, Progressive preserved the argument set forth in Rapid Scan and will appeal this decision since it is contrary to established First Department precedent.
In a very interesting case, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department held that principles of collateral estoppel do not apply in arbitration.
Matter of Falzone v New York Cent. Mut. Fire Ins. Co. 2009 NY Slip Op 05423 (4th Dept. 2009)
In this case, a Claimant initially arbitrated a no-fault claim between himself and his insurance carrier. The issue that was arbitrated involved whether Claimant’s injuries were causally related to the motor vehicle accident. A no-fault arbitrator found the injuries to be causally related to the motor vehicle accident and awarded benefits.
The Claimant after obtaining an award for no fault benefits then sought to obtain SUM benefits arising from the same loss. Accordingly, Claimant commenced a second arbitration between himself and the same carrier upon which he was awarded no-fault benefits. The insurance carrier’s defense to payment in this SUM arbitration, similar to that in the no-fault arbitration, was that there was a lack of a causal nexus between the motor vehicle accident and the alleged injuries.
Since the parties and issues to be resolved in this SUM matter were the same as that in the no-fault matter, i.e., whether the injuries were causally related to the motor vehicle accident, you would think that principles of collateral estoppel would come into play and bind the SUM arbitrator to the same decision as that of the no-fault arbitrator. As we saw in a previous post involving the matter of Lobel v. Allstate, a no-fault arbitrator’s decision on causation will collaterally estopp a party from re-litigating a previously arbitrated issue in Court. Yet, the SUM arbitrator, aware that the prior arbitrator found a causal nexus existed between the motor vehicle accident and the injuries, nonetheless ruled that there was no causal connection between the injuries and the motor vehicle accident.
An Article 75 challenge was lodged in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court granted the petition, reversed the SUM arbitrator’s decision and properly found that the results of the no-fault arbitration collaterally estopped the parties from contesting the causal relationship between the motor vehicle accident and the injuries at the SUM arbitration. Thus, the SUM arbitratror, as a matter of law, had to find that there was a causal relationship between the motor vehicle accident and the loss. The carrier appealed and the Fourth Department surprisingly reversed the order and judgment of the Supreme Court as set forth herein:
“We agree with respondent that Supreme Court erred in granting claimant’s motion. The fact that a prior arbitration award is inconsistent with a subsequent award is not an enumerated ground in either subdivision (b) or (c) of CPLR 7511 for vacating or modifying the subsequent award (see Matter of City School Dist. of City of Tonawanda v Tonawanda Educ. Assn., 63 NY2d 846, 848). As the court properly recognized, “[i]t was within the [SUM] arbitrator’s authority to determine the preclusive effect of the prior arbitration on the instant arbitration” (Matter of Progressive N. Ins. Co. v Sentry Ins. A Mut. Co., 51 AD3d 800, 801). The court erred in noting, however, that it was unable to determine whether the SUM arbitrator even considered claimant’s contention with respect to collateral estoppel. Arbitrators are not required to provide reasons for their decisions (see Matter of Solow Bldg. Co. v Morgan Guar. Trust Co. of N.Y., 6 AD3d 356, 356-357, lv denied 3 NY3d 605, cert denied 543 US 1148; Matter of Guetta [Raxon Fabrics Corp.], 123 AD2d 40, 41), and thus the SUM arbitrator was not required to state that he had considered that contention. “
Two points need to be considered. First, the Fourth Department cites a 2007 Second Department case entitled Matter of Progressive N. Ins. Co. v Sentry Ins. A Mut. Co. for its rule of law. Yet, the Progressive case actually held that collateral estoppel should be given effect to prior arbitration awards involving the same parties and the same issue. Second, there was a two Justice dissent, which as a matter of right brings this case to the Court of Appeals.
For the sake of commonsense, this case should be reversed. Otherwise, there will be too many instances where inconsistent decisions will arise in post-ime cases, other policy violation cases and coverage cases, among others. It would be a fair assessment to say that no-fault and other first-party practitioners will not benefit from the uncertainty and some could say absurdity that this case could rein upon the arbitral process.
The law is simple: Disputes involving whether an insurance carrier in a no-fault coverage dispute is primary, secondary, or tertiary must be resolved through intercompany arbitration. This fact pattern was presented four years ago in SZ Medical, P.C. v. Lancer Ins. Co., 7 Misc.3d 86 (App. Term 2d Dept. 2005) and was again presented in M.N. Dental Diagnostics, P.C. v Government Employees Ins. Co., 2009 NY Slip Op 29266(App. Term 1st Dept. 2009).