Mallela as a defense to a malpractice action

Baker, Sanders, Barshay, Grossman, Fass, Muhlstock & Neuwirth, LLC v Comprehensive Mental Assessment & Med. Care, P.C., 2010 NY Slip Op 20007 (Sup. Ct Nassau Co. 2010)

This case represents many things.  I find it interesting because it proves a point that many of us say to ourselves when nobody is listening, i.e., that the best plaintiff’s attorneys are those who were former defense attorneys, or hired former defense attorneys.  Thus, we have this case, a matter where a plaintiff no-fault law firm is alleging a Mallela violation as a defense to a malpractice claim brought against it.  I find the strategy ironic, yet am compelled to find it somewhat ingenious.

Behind the irony that this case offers, it should be remembered that the above scenario happens frequently in malpractice cases, when the former plaintiff attorney has to step into the shoes of the defendant he once sued because of the “case within a case” rule, that malpractice actions invoke.

And while many defense attorneys might find some joy in this decision, you should probably remember the following: if you as a “defense attorney” ever get hit with a malpractice claim, then you would be forced to turn “plaintiff attorney” and engage in a practice that is probably as unsavory as the said “plaintiff attorney” using Mallela as a defense.  This would mean that you would be impeaching the denial you defended, the mailing of the same, the proof in support of the denial and the processes your then former client had in place, in order to defeat that malpractice claim.

As to the substance of this lawsuit, the only thought I have is that we all should have malpractice insurance or reserves put away for these occurrences.

The admissibility of an EUO and the applicability of CPLR 3212(f)

RLC Med., P.C. v Allstate Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 2009 NY Slip Op 52691(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2009)

“Defendant denied Craigg’s $269.60 claim based upon the assignor’s EUO testimony. Since the purported EUO transcript annexed to defendant’s opposition papers is not in admissible form, we decline to consider it. Accordingly, Craigg was entitled to summary judgment upon said claim.”

Question: Why was it not in admissible form?  My thought is that Defendant annexed to her papers the condensed EUO  that was not certified by the stenographer.  Not good.

Same case:

“In opposition to plaintiffs’ motion, defendant established that while facts may exist that are essential to justify denial of the branch of the summary judgment motion seeking to recover upon claims submitted by RLC, defendant was unable to set forth sufficient facts to establish the defense of fraudulent incorporation (see Insurance Department Regulations [11 NYCRR] § 65-3.16 [a] [12]; State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v Mallela, 4 NY3d 313 [2005]) since such information was within RLC’s possession and RLC had not complied with defendant’s discovery demands therefor (see CPLR 3212 [f]). Consequently, the District Court properly denied the branch of the motion for summary judgment upon the claims submitted by RLC….”

CPLR 3212(f) again.  Dave Gottlieb over at NFP and on his CPLR blog has detailed this subdivision of the summary disposition statute for some time.  In New York practice, it usually takes a really good reason to deny a summary judgment motion without prejudice, in accordance with subdivision (f) of Rule 3212 of the CPLR.  In no-fault and 5102(d) threshold practice, subdivision (f) is successfully invoked as a matter of course in the case of a Mallela violation or when a Plaintiff moves on the basis that he or she sustained a serious injury prior to the performance of Defendant’s IME’s.

Outside of these two situations, the usual trend is to deny a CPLR 3212(f) application.  Here is a prime example – Delta Radiology, P.C. v. Interboro Insurance Company, 25 Misc.3d 134(A)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2009):

“Contrary to defendant’s contention, although plaintiff’s claim was submitted more than 45 days after the services at issue were rendered, defendant waived its reliance on the 45-day rule (Insurance Department Regulations [11 NYCRR] § 65-1.1) as a basis to deny the claim because defendant had failed to communicate to plaintiff, as required by the No-Fault Regulations, that late submission of the proof of claim will be excused where the applicant can provide a reasonable justification for the late submission ( see Insurance Department Regulations [11 NYCRR] § 65-3.3[e]; SZ Med. P.C. v. Country-Wide Ins. Co., 12 Misc.3d 52 [App Term, 2d & 11th Jud Dists 2006] ). Further, defendant failed to demonstrate that discovery was needed in order to show the existence of a triable issue of fact ( see CPLR 3212[f] ).”

Disqualified yet able to collect his receivables?

A.B. Med. Servs., PLLC v Travelers Indem. Co. 2009 NY Slip Op 29510 (App. Term 2d Dept. 2009)

“Plaintiff, as a “professional service limited liability company” (Limited Liability Company Law § 1201 [f]), could render professional services only through individuals authorized by law to render such professional services (Limited Liability Company Law § 1204 [a]). Here, plaintiff’s sole member was Dr. Braver. Once his medical license was suspended, he became legally disqualified from practicing medicine within the state and was disqualified from continuing as a member of plaintiff (see Limited Liability Company Law § 1209). Dissolution occurred on the effective date of the suspension of Dr. Braver’s medical license since, at that point, there were no remaining members of the professional service limited liability company (see Limited Liability Company Law § 701 [a] [4] [a “limited liability company is dissolved and its affairs shall be wound up . . . at any time there are no members”]). We note that although articles of dissolution have now been filed, there is no statutory requirement that articles of dissolution be filed before commencement of the winding up process.

After dissolution, the affairs of the limited liability company are to be wound up (see Limited Liability Company Law § 703 [a]). Where a professional service limited liability company has other members remaining in the company, and continues to render professional [*3]services, a disqualified member must “sever all employment with and financial interests” in such company (Limited Liability Company Law § 1209). However, where, as here, the disqualified member was the sole member of such company, he may wind up the professional service limited liability company’s affairs by, among other things, prosecuting and/or defending an action on behalf of the professional service limited liability company (Limited Liability Company Law § 703 [b] [“the persons winding up the limited liability company’s affairs may, in the name of and for and on behalf of the limited liability company . . . prosecute and defend suits, whether civil, criminal or administrative, settle and close the limited liability company’s business”). Since the instant action could still be maintained in plaintiff’s name despite its dissolution, a stay of the proceedings, pursuant to CPLR 2201, was not warranted, and we strike such provision.”

According to the Appellate Term, it is better to lose your license and have no one else legally able to take over the affairs of the PLLC, then it is to lose your license and have a licensed individual able to run the PLLC.

Why does a Malella defense surive an untimely disclaimer, while a workers compensation defense doesn't?

In New York First Acupuncture, P.C. v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 2009 NY Slip Op 52217(u), the Appellate Term in the context of an improper incorporation defense stated again that:

“Plaintiff’s contention, that the defense of fraudulent incorporation must be asserted in a timely denial of claim form, is without merit (Multiquest, P.L.L.C. v Allstate Ins. Co., 17 Misc 3d 37, 38-39 [App Term, 2d & 11th Jud Dists 2007]).”

What is interesting, and I have stated this before, is that it seems illogical that a Workers Compensation defense requires a timely disclaimer in order to be preserved (Westchester Med. Ctr. v Lincoln Gen. Ins. Co., 60 AD3d 1045 (2d Dept. 2009), while a Mallela styled defense is exempt from the timely disclaimer requirement of Ins. Law 5106(a).  Both of these defenses do not implicate coverage.  Rather, these defenses are based upon whether a party has standing to prosecute an action.  Compare 11 NYCRR 65-3.16(a)(12), with, 11 NYCRR 65-3.16 (a)(9).

A little consistency would be nice.

Why does a Malella defense surive an untimely disclaimer, while a workers compensation defense doesn’t?

In New York First Acupuncture, P.C. v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 2009 NY Slip Op 52217(u), the Appellate Term in the context of an improper incorporation defense stated again that:

“Plaintiff’s contention, that the defense of fraudulent incorporation must be asserted in a timely denial of claim form, is without merit (Multiquest, P.L.L.C. v Allstate Ins. Co., 17 Misc 3d 37, 38-39 [App Term, 2d & 11th Jud Dists 2007]).”

What is interesting, and I have stated this before, is that it seems illogical that a Workers Compensation defense requires a timely disclaimer in order to be preserved (Westchester Med. Ctr. v Lincoln Gen. Ins. Co., 60 AD3d 1045 (2d Dept. 2009), while a Mallela styled defense is exempt from the timely disclaimer requirement of Ins. Law 5106(a).  Both of these defenses do not implicate coverage.  Rather, these defenses are based upon whether a party has standing to prosecute an action.  Compare 11 NYCRR 65-3.16(a)(12), with, 11 NYCRR 65-3.16 (a)(9).

A little consistency would be nice.