Can’t backdoor the Master award through a DJ

Hereford Ins. Co. v Iconic Wellness Surgical Servs., LLC, 2019 NY Slip Op 50801(U)(App. Term 1st Dept. 2019)

“Civil Court erred in vacating the master arbitrator’s no-fault award on the ground that it is contrary to a subsequent order rendered by the Supreme Court, New York County, which declared that petitioner-insurer is not liable for no-fault benefits arising from the underlying automobile accident. While the preclusive effect of a pre-arbitration judicial decision may be sufficient to vacate an arbitral award (see Matter of Tokio Mar. & Fire Ins. Co. v Allstate Ins. Co., 8 AD3d 492 [2004]), a post-arbitration judicial determination concerning the insurer’s liability is not one of the limited grounds for vacating an arbitration award (see Matter of Hirsch Constr. Corp. [Cooper], 181 AD2d 52 [1992], lv denied 81 NY2d 701 [1992]). Indeed, if a motion to vacate an arbitration award on this ground could be entertained, “the arbitration award would be the beginning rather than the end of the controversy and the protracted litigation which arbitration is meant to avoid would be invited” (Matter of Mole [Queen Ins. Co. of Am.], 14 AD2d 1, 3 [1961]).”

“We have considered petitioner Hereford’s alternative grounds for vacating the award and find them unavailing. The master arbitrator’s affirmance of the lower arbitration award was not irrational (see Matter of Petrofsky [Allstate Ins. Co.], 54 NY2d 207, 211 [1981]), nor did it ignore controlling law (see Matter of Global Liberty Ins. Co. v ISurply, LLC, 163 AD3d 418 [2018]).”

I think the smarter approach would have been to consolidate the DJ action with the Article 75 action (COA #1 DJ; COA #2 Art 75) and to move by Notice of Petition. This assumes the the DJ had merit and was not one to force a default in an attempt to create unfounded res judicata.

Confirmed

Acuhealth Acupuncture, P.C. v Country-Wide Ins. Co., 2019 NY Slip Op 02338 (2d Dept. 2019)

“The master arbitrator’s determination of the law need not be correct: mere errors of law are insufficient to set aside the award of a master arbitrator” (Matter of Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v Spine Americare Med., 294 AD2d at 577). “If the master arbitrator vacates the arbitrator’s award based upon an alleged error of a rule of substantive law,’ the determination of the master arbitrator must be upheld unless it is irrational” (id. at 576; see Matter of Acuhealth Acupuncture, P.C. v Country-Wide Ins. Co., 149 AD3d at 829). Here, we agree with the Supreme Court’s determination vacating the master arbitrator’s determination, as there was no rational basis to support it.

What was the error of substantive law that that Supreme Court felt needed was wrong and required reversal?

Another arbitration only rule bites the dust

Matter of Global Liberty Ins. Co. v Medco Tech, Inc., 2019 NY Slip Op 02167 (1st Dept 2019)

” Respondent seeks from petitioner no-fault insurance benefits for medical equipment that respondent provided to its assignor, who was involved in a motor vehicle accident. In denying respondent’s claim, petitioner relied on a peer review report that concluded, based on a review of the medical records, that the assignor’s condition was degenerative in nature and not post-traumatic and therefore that the surgery undergone by the assignor was “not medically necessary in relation to the accident” (emphasis supplied). The arbitral award must be vacated and a de novo hearing held, because, on the record before us, as argued, it would be irrational to conclude that the need for the subject medical equipment was causally related to the accident (see Matter of Smith [Firemen’s Ins. Co.], 55 NY2d 224, 232 [1982]; Mount Sinai Hosp. v Triboro Coach, 263 AD2d 11, 18-19 [2d Dept 1999]; Shahid Mian, M.D., P.C. v Interboro Ins. Co., 39 Misc 3d 135[A], 2013 NY Slip Op 50589[U] [App Term, 1st Dept 2013]). “

I always ask myself what is it that causes me to appeal certain cases. Sometimes, it is pure curiosity, sometimes it is because the lower arbitrator did such a horrible job that I cannot see record support for the award and other times it is because the lower fact finder created a legal precedent that is completely without legal support. You can figure that my level of success in categories number one and two are minimal. Category two represents the cases that are most personal to me (e.g., Miller v Elrac) and are heart-breakers because AAA just got the cases wrong. As to category three, I have gotten some bites, as can be seen here.

The issue in this case represented the perfect storm. Arbitrator Resko was not able to make a factual determination based upon the master arbitrator rule stating that post-surgical DME peer reviews and IMEs must make reference to the DME in order to be valid. That was not done here. An award was entered in favor of the Applicant. The master arbitrator gave it the Petrofsky “seal of approval” and I bounced into Supreme Court. FYI – the master arbitration program is a disgrace, but I can discuss that off-line.

My issue had nothing to do with this applicant, law firm or my dislike towards CPM and some of the abuses I see with extremity surgery billing. Some people think these appeals are personal, but this was not. It was based upon a rule of law that I found not well reasoned and I will say was “stupid”. I was hesitant about appealing this, but I went to an arbitration, saw a certain law firm with many surgery cases “cite” to voluminous master awards involving this issue and I said to myself that I should pull the trigger. The beneficiary of this rule will probably be Geico and Allstate given their presence in the market. But, I never want to see this rule applied in any of my cases. I got my wish.

If you look at the oral arguments, my main point is that that the medical necessity or causal relationship should not be barred due to a made up rule that runs counter to established precedent. I told one of the judges I do not even care if I win or lose at the end, just apply a rational precedent. The Court agreed. My bill for this case? Satisfaction that reason prevailed.

Good hands people launched a less than laudable appeal

Allstate Ins. Co. v Longevity Med. Supply, Inc., 2018 NY Slip Op 50238(U)(App. Term 1st Dept. 2018)

“There was a rational basis, based on the no-fault regulations, for the master arbitrator’s finding that respondent-medical provider’s proof was sufficient to establish that (1) it responded to the verification demands sent by petitioner, and (2) that petitioner was therefore required, but failed, to rebut the presumption of receipt of the verification, or show that it timely acted upon receipt by paying or denying the claim, or seeking further verification. The master arbitrator’s legal analysis of the arbitrator’s determination was well within the scope of her authority to review and correct an error of law made by the arbitrator”

I do not what the purpose of this appeal was except to maximize on hourly billing.  Perhaps i am missing something and need enlightenment.

20-days means just that

Matter of Ameriprise Ins. Co. v Sandy  2018 NY Slip Op 00828 (2d Dept. 2018)

“Where an insurance policy contains an agreement to arbitrate, CPLR 7503 (c) requires a party, once served with a [notice of intention to arbitrate], to move to stay such arbitration within 20 days of service of such [notice], else he or she is precluded from objecting'” (Matter of Government Empls. Ins. Co. v Castillo-Gomez, 34 AD3d 477, 478, quoting Matter of Steck [State Farm Ins. Co.], 89 NY2d 1082, 1084). Here, the proceeding was not commenced within 20 days of the receipt of the November 2, 2015, notice of intention to arbitrate.

In order for the 20-day limitation period to be enforceable, the notice of intention to arbitrate must comply with the requirements of CPLR 7503(c) (see Government Empls. Ins. Co. v Castillo-Gomez, 34 AD3d at 478; Matter of Nassau Ins. Co. [Clemente], 100 AD2d 969, 970; State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v Szwec, 36 AD2d 863, 863). Here, contrary to Ameriprise’s contention, the November 2, 2015, notice complied with all the statutory requirements.

Ameriprise failed to establish that the November 2, 2015, notice of intention to arbitrate was deceptive and intended to prevent it from timely contesting the issue of arbitrability ”

I think Ameriprise wants the legal fees the expended back.

Malella and Attorneys fees

Country-Wide Ins. Co. v Valdan Acupuncture, P.C., 2017 NY Slip Op 04068 (1st Dept. 2017)

(1) Assuming without deciding that an insurer’s defense of fraudulent incorporation cannot be precluded (see AVA Acupuncture, P.C. v AutoOne Ins. Co., 28 Misc 3d 134[A], 2010 NY Slip Op 51350[U] [App Term 2d Dept 2010]; Bath Med. Supply, Inc. v Allstate Indem. Co., 27 Misc 3d 92, 95 [App Term 2d Dept 2010]), we conclude that the master arbitrator properly confirmed the award of the arbitrator, who reviewed petitioner’s submissions relating to the plea of guilty to no-fault insurance fraud by a man married to the owner of respondent, found that respondent was not mentioned once in the “hundreds of pages” submitted, and rejected petitioner’s attempt to hold the owner “responsible by association.”

(2) “Respondent is entitled to attorneys’ fees for this appeal (11 NYCRR 65-4.10(j)(4)), calculated, in accordance with 11 NYCRR 65-4.6(b), as 20% of the no-fault benefits awarded.”

This decision goes against Geico v. AAMG, which seems to imply an hourly fee for work in relation to an article 75.  This decision does not touch upon a de-novo action, which may or may not be subjection to an attorney fee in accordance with 4.6(b) viz 4.10(j)(4).

Also, precludable Mallela?  So much in a small case.

Hourly attorneys fees (65-4.10[j][4])

Matter of GEICO Ins. Co. v AAAMG Leasing Corp., 2017 NY Slip Op 01552 (2d Dept. 2017)

(1) “The petitioner opposed that demand for relief. In the alternative, the petitioner stated that the appellant’s fee should be limited to $650.”

(2) “In the order and judgment appealed from, the Supreme Court confirmed the arbitration award. That branch of the cross petition which was for an award of an additional attorney’s fee was denied without comment. The appeal is limited to so much of the order and judgment as denied that branch of the cross petition which was for an award of an additional attorney’s fee.”

(3)  “The general rule is that in proceedings involving arbitration, as in other litigation, an attorney’s fee is not recoverable unless provided for by agreement or statute (see Myron Assoc. v Obstfeld, 224 AD2d 504). Pursuant to Insurance Law § 5106(a), if a valid claim or portion of a claim for no-fault benefits is overdue, “the claimant shall also be entitled to recover his attorney’s reasonable fee, for services necessarily performed in connection with securing payment of the overdue claim, subject to [the] limitations promulgated by the superintendent in regulations.” As applicable here, the superintendent’s regulations provide that an attorney’s fee for services rendered in connection with “a court appeal from a master arbitration award . . . shall be fixed by the court adjudicating the matter” (Insurance Department Regulations [11 NYCRR] § 65-4.10[j][4]). The term “court appeal” applies to a proceeding such as this, taken pursuant to CPLR article 75 to vacate or confirm a master arbitration award (see Matter of Hempstead Gen. Hosp. v National Grange Mut. Ins. Co., 179 AD2d 645).”

(3) “Accordingly, the matter must be remitted to the Supreme Court, Nassau County, for a determination of the amount of the additional attorney’s fee to which the appellant is entitled, stating the evidentiary basis for the award. We note that the court shall not consider any time spent by the appellant’s attorney in applying for and substantiating his fee, as the appellant is not entitled to a “fee upon a fee”

The Court in this matter was pellucid that any Article 75 or trial de novo that a medical provider initiates or responds to will be subjected to an hourly attorney fee.  I see damage coming.

This time Country-Wide gets the Appellate Division to reverse AAA

Country-Wide Ins. Co. v Radiology of Westchester, P.C., 2017 NY Slip Op 01461 (1st Dept. 2017)

“The master arbitrator’s award was arbitrary because it irrationally ignored petitioner’s uncontroverted evidence establishing that the assignor failed to appear at the three scheduled examinations under oath (cf. Hertz Corp. v Active Care Med. Supply Corp., 124 AD3d 411 [1st Dept 2015]; Easy Care Acupuncture P.C. v Praetorian Ins. Co., 49 Misc 3d 137[A], 2015 NY Slip Op 51524[U] [App Term, 1st Dept 2015]).”

Again, the blame on this goes to the master arbitration system that rubber stamps the awards of the lower arbitrators.  I never read Petrofsky to require a master arbitrator to ignore evidence that proves a factual proposition or a well known legal principle.  These master arbitration awards (and I master arbitrate a lot of cases) usually affirm arbitrator awards because they believe that most review is out of their hands.  Read this case, Hillside, Professional Chiro and understand that legal challenges to lower arbitration awards are fair game. Factual challenges when there are no facts to support a key proposition of fact are fair game for review, but a closer call for affirmance than legal challenges.  There are other cases that are escaping me – but those involve MVAIC.

As an aside,  I have 7 masters on IME no shows (same date of loss and assignor/assignee) where the lower arbitrator misconstrued an IME letter and affidavit.  The error is as clear as the day is long.  That said, I am not going to blame the lower arbitrator because there was a lot going on in the file and he probably missed it.  Mistakes happen and that is why we have appellate courts and a master arbitration tribunal.  I have a feeling the master is going to affirm because of “Petrofsky” and it will take Supreme Court  to vacate the awards.

 

Rocket Docket – to the moon

Matter of Global Liberty Ins. Co. v Coastal Anesthesia Servs., LLC, 2016 NY Slip Op 08964 (1st Dept. 2016)

What’s interesting about this case is that the submissions were five days late (accompanied by a showing of law office failure in the moving memorandum of law) and Respondent provider did not object to the tardy submissions.  Rather, Respondent provider sought time to put in a rebuttal.   The arbitration was held 6 months following the uploading of the evidence.

Lower arbitrator Ann Lorraine Russo decided that rocket docket preclusion was proper and Master Arbitrator Donald DeCarlo gave his “Petrofsky” stamp of approval.  Clearly, I was displeased by what I sensed as a complete perversion of the regulation.

Supreme Court without directly saying it wrote that it did not agree with the rulings of the lower arbitrator but would not disturb what amounted to a broken arbitration system on this issue.  The Appellate Division did not want to get involved.   “The decision of the Master Arbitrator in affirming the arbitration award had evidentiary support, a rational basis, and was not arbitrary and capricious (see Matter of Petrofsky [Allstate Ins. Co.], 54 NY2d 207, 211 [1981]). The original arbitrator properly acted within her discretionary authority to refuse to entertain any late submissions proffered by petitioner (see 11 NYCRR 65-4.2[b][3]; Matter of Mercury Cas. Co. v Healthmakers Med. Group, P.C., 67 AD3d 1017 [2d Dept 2009]).”

At the end of the day, AAA and DFS needs to take a hard look (and I have sources who have said they will) at the application of 11 NYCRR 65-4.2.  This was the prototypical example of AAA just does not getting it and the courts turning a blind eye to a real problem.  I sense needed regulatory change is on the horizon.

Also remember that you (the participant) have the right to rate the performance of an arbitrator.  I just wish we could rate the performance of the master arbitrators.   But does anyone read what I wrote after I get a decision like this one?  smh.

 

 

Causation defense not substantiated in intercompany arbitration

Matter of DTG Operations, Inc. v Travelers Indem. Co., 2016 NY Slip Op 08967 (1st Dept. 2016)

This looks like a case where the Petitioner was fighting an inter-company arbitration award on the basis that the injuries sustained to Respondent Assignor were not related to the accident

(1) “Accordingly, this matter involves compulsory arbitration, and the award will be upheld so long as it comports with CPLR 7511 and is not arbitrary and capricious (Matter of Motor Veh. Acc. Indem. Corp. v Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 89 NY2d 214, 223 [1996]; Matter of Emerald Claims Mgt. for Ullico Cas. Ins. Co. v A. Cent. Ins. Co., 121 AD3d 481, 482 [1st Dept 2014]).”

(2) “An evidentiary basis exists in the record to support a finding that respondent had demonstrated a causal relationship between the accident and the medical treatments for which it paid (American Transit Insurance Company v Acceptance Indemnity Insurance Company, 2009 NY Slip Op 33169[U] [Sup Ct, Nassau County [2009]). Respondent “responded in writing to the causation argument” (emphasis omitted), stating that the applicant passenger, who was injured while riding in an Access-A-Ride vehicle insured by respondent, was disabled prior to this loss, that the loss worsened any prior condition, that it takes a disabled person much longer to recover from said injuries, and that a disabled person therefore requires more treatment.

As can be seen here, the exacerbation argument won the day in this case.  As we saw in Liberty v. Global, the burden was on DTG to present evidence that the injury was not related or that the accident made the condition worse.  Failing this showing, the award could not be vacated.