Law of the case does not apply to discovery orders

Terra Chiropractic, P.C. v Hertz Claim Mgt. Corp., 2010 NY Slip Op 51722(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2010)

“[d]octrine of law of the case…does not apply to prior discovery orders”  I found that line to be interesting.  Factually, this case involved a plaintiff who could not seem to get his act together, and a court that gave him more chances than you would find in a standard civil action.

Does this make sense?

A.B. Med. Servs., PLLC v New York Cent. Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 2010 NY Slip Op 50702(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2010)

“Plaintiffs’ prior action was dismissed pursuant to CPLR 3126 (3), but the dismissal order did not state that the dismissal was with prejudice, nor does a review of the record reveal the existence of a preclusion order. Consequently, plaintiffs were not barred from [*2]commencing a second action. Accordingly, the District Court properly denied defendant’s pre-answer motion to dismiss the complaint based on the doctrine of res judicata.”

If the striking of a complaint is such an extreme remedy, only available upon the willful and contumacious behavior of the plaintiff, then why does it carry  less of a sanction than preclusion?  Secondly, would we have had the same outcome had an answer been stricken?  Do we have a 14th Amendment issue?  Interesting.

Appellate Term holds CPLR 3212(f) relief is inappropriate under three separate circumstances

Bath Med. Supply, Inc. v Allstate Indem. Co., 2010 NY Slip Op 20059 (App. Term 2d Dept. 2010)

First, the Appellate Term, Second Department, appears to have, for the first time that  I can recall, denied a 3212(f) application when the defense is based upon a corporate structure issue.  The court found it relevant that many of the corporate documents, which the 3212(f) defense was based upon, are readily available.

Second, the portion of the 3212(f) application, which was based upon the purported need for an EBT of the assignor based upon an allegation that the assignor received the supplies, was denied since the defense may have been precluded.

Third, even if the defense was not precluded, a deposition of the assignor without a subpoena, as we know, is palpably improper.

“The court denied plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment pursuant to CPLR 3212 (f) on the ground that defendant was entitled to discovery pertaining to its contention that plaintiff had billed insurance companies for medical supplies which were never provided. However, defendant failed to make any showing that its denial of claim forms were timely mailed and that it is not precluded from raising fraudulent billing as a defense (see Fair Price Med. Supply Corp. v Travelers Indem. Co., 10 NY3d 556 [2008]; Presbyterian Hosp. in City of NY v Maryland Cas. Co., 90 NY2d 274, 282 [1997]). Consequently, the court’s determination that discovery was necessary to obtain facts relevant to this precluded defense was improper, and, thus, plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment should not have been denied on that basis.

A defense that plaintiff may be ineligible to recover no-fault benefits because it failed to adhere to applicable statutes (cf. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v Mallela, 4 NY3d 313 [2005]) is not precluded, notwithstanding defendant’s failure to demonstrate that its denial of claim forms were timely sent. However, defendant has offered no factual basis for its contention that plaintiff was not properly incorporated as a provider of durable medical equipment or failed to obtain any license that may have been required at the time it delivered medical equipment to its assignor. Further, in light of the availability of public records documenting plaintiff’s licensing status, defendant “failed to demonstrate that discovery was needed in order to show the existence of a triable issue of fact (see CPLR 3212 [f])” (Delta Diagnostic Radiology, P.C. v Interboro Ins. Co., 25 Misc 3d 134[A], 2009 NY Slip Op 52222[U] [App Term, 2d, 11th & 13th Jud Dists 2009]; see also Corwin v Heart Share Human Servs. of NY, 66 AD3d 814, 815 [2009] [summary judgment should be deferred pending discovery only when the opponent “offer[s] an evidentiary basis to suggest that discovery might lead to relevant evidence and that facts essential to justify opposition to the motion were exclusively within the knowledge and control of the plaintiff”]).”

We note that, insofar as the order conditioned the grant of defendant’s cross motion on the nonappearance of plaintiff’s assignor for an examination before trial, the order was improper. As plaintiff’s assignor is neither a party to this action nor under plaintiff’s control (Leon v Martinez, 84 NY2d 83, 88 [1994]; Cardtronics, LP v St. Nicholas Beverage Discount Ctr., Inc., 8 AD3d 419, 420 [2004]; 6A NY Jur 2d, Assignments §§ 59, 85), the sanctions provided by CPLR 3126 (3) for nondisclosure cannot be imposed on plaintiff for failing to produce its assignor for an examination before trial (MIA Acupuncture, P.C. v Mercury Ins. Co., ___ Misc 3d ___, 2009 NY Slip Op 29509 [App Term, 2d, 11th & 13th Jud Dists 2009]).

The fifth discovery default will cause your answer to be stricken

Rodriguez v United Bronx Parents, Inc., 2010 NY Slip Op 01366 (1st Dept. 2010):

“Order, Supreme Court, Bronx County (Howard R. Silver, J.), entered August 26, 2009, which, to the extent appealed from, granted plaintiff’s cross motion pursuant to CPLR 3126 to strike defendant’s answer solely to the extent of granting plaintiff a missing witness charge as to Nadia James and Victor Martinez, unanimously modified, on the law and the facts, the cross motion to strike granted….”

“Here, plaintiff established that defendant’s failure to comply was willful and contumacious, given its repeated and persistent failure to comply with five successive disclosure orders (see Goldstein v CIBC World Mkts. Corp. 30 AD3d 217 [2006]; Min Yoon v Costello, 29 AD3d 407 [2006]; compare Pascarelli v City of New York, 16 AD3d 472 [2005]). Defendant’s failure to adequately explain what efforts were made to locate the documents it failed to disclose, or to explain its inability to provide the last known addresses of its former residents or employees, also supports a finding that its failure to comply was willful. Furthermore, defense counsel’s “Affirmation of Search” did not indicate whether he was the custodian of defendant’s records, what records were searched, who conducted the search, what the search consisted of, and the statement was made upon “information and belief.” Accordingly, this statement is devoid of detail and insufficient.”

After the fifth time that defendant stonewalled the plaintiff, the Supreme Court granted plaintiff a missing witness charge.  The Appellate Division was unimpressed and, upon Defendant’s appeal, struck the Defendant’s complaint.

The improper filing of a Note of Issue in Central New York will cost you more than the $30 or $125 you paid to file that Note of Issue

Ikeda v Tedesco, 2010 NY Slip Op 01283 (4th Dept. 2010)

“We reject plaintiff’s contention that, pursuant to CPLR 3402, a party may file a note of issue and certificate of readiness “at any time after issue is first joined . . . .” Pursuant to 22 NYCRR 202.21 (a) and (b), a properly filed note of issue must be accompanied by a certificate of readiness, and there must be “no outstanding requests for discovery” (22 NYCRR 202.21 [b] [8]). Here, plaintiff filed the note of issue and certificate of readiness before she had provided the release in accordance with the [*2]order granting defendants’ motion to compel her to do so. Thus, the court properly granted that part of defendants’ motion to strike the note of issue and certificate of readiness (see 22 NYCRR 202.21 [e]). We agree with plaintiff, however, that the court erred in failing to comply with 22 NYCRR 130-1.2 in imposing the attorney fees as a sanction inasmuch as the court failed to set forth in a written decision “the conduct on which . . . the imposition [of sanctions] is based, the reasons why the court found the conduct to be frivolous, and the reasons why the court found the amount . . . imposed to be appropriate” (see Leisten v Leisten, 309 AD2d 1202, 1203; see also Campbell v Obear, 26 AD3d 877, 878). We therefore modify the order by vacating the award of attorney fees, and we remit the matter to Supreme Court for compliance with 22 NYCRR 130-1.2.”

A sanction hearing for something that happens in so many personal injury actions here in downstate New York?  The world of upstate practice.

An angry Appellate Division strikes a complaint based upon discovery violations

Northfield Ins. Co. v Model Towing & Recovery
2009 NY Slip Op 04878 (2d Dept 2009).

While this case represents nothing unique, the path the Appellate Division took was. The facts, as relayed to the reader, are that the following discovery orders were in place and in some way were violated:

1. Preliminary conference (7/28/05)- discovery was ordered to be completed prior to the Compliance Conference (12/19/06) .

2. Compliance conference (12/19/06) – discovery was ordered to be completed by 2/14/07.

3. There were various status conferences in between the dates of 2/14/07 and 12/12/07.

4. At the 12/12/07 status conference, discovery was ordered to be completed on or before 1/16/08.

5. Discovery was not completed on 1/16/08 .

6. A motion was interposed based upon the failure to comply with the 1/16/08 order. The Court in this order set forth a discovery schedule, and stated that it was to be obeyed under penalty of a 3126 remedy, upon a subsequent motion. In English, it looked as if the violation of this order would result in a conditional order of preclusion or a conditional order of dismissal.

Excluding status conferences and the P.C. order, there were 2 orders. Moreover, only one resulting order was the result of a motion made on notice.

The Defendant appealed the 1/16/08 order on the basis that the Court should have stricken the complaint. What happened next is something that is very rarely seen in downstate New York practice: The Appellate Division reversed the order of Supreme Court and struck the complaint.

Now for those of us who have practiced in Supreme Kings (my favorite example) as defendants and have had the opportunity to make discovery based motions in CCP, you will observe that it is almost impossible to obtain an order containing conditional preclusion or dismissal language, let alone an order that will unconditionally strike the complaint. Almost 10 discovery orders can be violated and a conditional order of dismissal, conditional order of preclusion or an absolute order of preclusion or dismissal will never occur. That is life, and we accept it because when these orders get appealed, the Appellate Division will usually not find an abuse of discretion and affirm the order of the Supreme Court, with the Defendant paying one bill of costs and disbursements to the recalcitrant Plaintiff.

Here, there were 3 disobeyed orders (including the P.C. order) and some status conferences that appeared to be disregarded. The Appellate Division, on appeal, reversed Supreme Court and struck the complaint. Since the SOL probably expired, the dismissal order was with prejudice. My question is as follows: are we going to see this type of vigilance in other cases, or is this case just an anomaly?

Some newer cases

It has been a real quiet few months in our world of law. Nothing too substantial has come out recently. There have been some procedural cases, which have an effect on all areas of law. Here are some of the cases I have found which have interesting overtones to them:

Stipulation of discontinuance with prejudice = presumption of res judicata

Support Billing & Mgt. Co. v State Farm Mut. Ins. Co.
2008 NYSlipOp 52226(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2008)

“A stipulation of discontinuance which specifies that it is “with prejudice” raises a presumption that the stipulation is to be given res judicata effect in future litigation on the same cause of action”

Discovery on a precluded defense requires proof of a timely denial – timely denial means more than it being facially timely…

Corona Hgts. Med., P.C. v State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co.
2008 NYSlipOp 52185(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2008)

“Where a discovery demand concerns matters relating to a defense which a defendant is precluded from raising, it is palpably improper, notwithstanding the fact that the plaintiff did not specifically object thereto (see A.B. Med. Servs. PLLC, 11 Misc 3d 71). As defendant did not establish that it timely denied plaintiff’s claims, to the extent defendant seeks discovery in support of its defense of lack of medical necessity, discovery of such precluded matter is palpably improper”

Court sanctions more than one discovery device being demanded simulataneously

First Aid Occupational Therapy, PLLC v State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co.

2008 NY Slip Op 51963(U)(App. Term 2d Dept, 2008).

In addition, defendant is entitled to conduct an EBT of plaintiff notwithstanding the fact that defendant also served a demand for discovery and inspection of documents (see Woods v Alexander, 267 AD2d 1060, 1061 [1999]; Iseman v Delmar Med.-Dental Bldg., 113 AD2d 276 [1985]; JMJ Contract Mgt. v Ingersoll-Rand Co., 100 AD2d 291, 293 [1984]).

CCA 1201 – give us a reason for allowing an extraterritorial subpoena

Bronxborough Med., P.C. v Travelers Ins. Co.
21 Misc.3d 21 (App. Term 2d Dept. 2008)

Inasmuch as plaintiff’s moving papers failed to establish that the interests of justice would be served by permitting plaintiff to serve, outside the City of New York and the adjoining counties, a subpoena which would require defendant’s employee to appear at trial, and, in addition, did not set forth the location at which plaintiff sought to serve the subpoena, plaintiff’s motion was properly denied.

Don’t send the peer or IME upon demand – the courts will forgive you, but the DOI probably will not.

Careplus Med. Supply, Inc. v New York Cent. Mut. Fire Ins. Co.

21 Misc.3d 18 (App. Term 2d Dept. 2008)

In response to a provider seeking to preclude an insurance carrier from raising a defense of lack of medical necessity based upon the pre-suit failure to turn over the peer or IME report in accordance with the regulations, the Appellate Term said no so fast…

“The Insurance Department Regulations provide no sanction for an insurer’s failure to provide a peer review report upon the written{**21 Misc 3d at 20}{**21 Misc 3d at 20} request for one by a provider (see e.g. A.B. Med. Servs. PLLC v Clarendon Natl. Ins. Co., 12 Misc 3d 143[A], 2006 NY Slip Op 51415[U] [App Term, 2d & 11th Jud Dists 2006]). While plaintiff urges the court to impose the sanction of preclusion here, we decline to do so because “[h]ad it been the intent of the Department of Insurance” to impose such a sanction, “it would have so provided”

Do not file a notice of trial without obtaining a final order of preclusion or dismissal, etc.

Iscowitz v. County of Suffolk
54 A.D.3d 725 (2d Dept. 2008)

“The plaintiffs waived any objection to the adequacy and timeliness of the disclosure by filing a note of issue and certificate of readiness prior to moving pursuant to CPLR 3126 for the imposition of a discovery sanction

Preclusion – The Appellate Division spells out why we should not sign preclusion stipulations.

Allen v Calleja
2008 NY Slip Op 08685 (2d Dept. 2008)

To warrant preclusion, “the Supreme Court must determine that the offending party’s lack of cooperation with disclosure was willful, deliberate, and contumacious” (Assael v Metropolitan Tr. Auth., 4 AD3d 443, 443; see CPLR 3126[2]; Moog v City of New York, 30 AD3d 490). Such conduct may be found where, for example, a party repeatedly fails to comply with court orders directing it to produce certain discovery without adequate excuses therefor

And when it comes to the inability to invoke “preclusion” based upon a single failure to comply with a conditional order of preclusion (when this was the first discovery order in the case), the Appellate Term, First Department said the following:

Pelham Parkway Neuro & Diagnostic, P.C. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co.

16 Misc.3d 130(A)(App. Term 1st Dept. 2007)

In this action to recover assigned first party no-fault benefits, the drastic sanction of precluding defendant from asserting its defense of exhaustion of policy limits was unwarranted in the absence of a showing that defendant’s single failure to comply with the parties’ discovery stipulation was willful and contumacious