Advanced Orthopedics, PLLC v GEICO, 2019 NY Slip Op 50500(U)(1st Dept. 2019)
“The Civil Court dismissed the complaint, finding defendant’s witness to be credible, worthy of belief, and persuasive.”
“In reviewing a determination made after a nonjury trial, the power of this court is as broad as that of the trial court, and this court may render the judgment it finds warranted by the facts, bearing in mind that the determination of a trier of fact as to issues of credibility is given substantial deference, as a trial court’s opportunity to observe and evaluate the testimony and demeanor of the witnesses affords it a better perspective from which to assess their credibility (see Northern Westchester Professional Park Assoc. v Town of Bedford, 60 NY2d 492 ; Hamilton v Blackwood, 85 AD3d 1116 ; Zeltser v Sacerdote, 52 AD3d 824 ). As the record supports the determination of the Civil Court with respect to the lack of medical necessity of the knee surgery, which was based upon its assessment of the credibility of the witnesses, we find no basis to disturb the Civil Court’s finding with respect thereto.”
Ampofo v Key, 2019 NY Slip Op 00559 (1st Dept. 2019)
“Defendants established prima facie that plaintiff’s claimed right ankle and foot sprains were not serious injuries within the meaning of Insurance Law § 5102(d) through affirmed reports by their orthopedist, who documented normal range of motion (see Hernandez v Adelango Trucking, 89 AD3d 407 [1st Dept 2011]; Whisenant v Farazi, 67 AD3d 535 [1st Dept 2009]). They also submitted an affirmed report by an orthopedic surgeon who performed a no-fault peer review, which noted that plaintiff’s MRI reports showed osteoarthritis and other conditions, and opined that the right ankle arthroscopy performed four months after the collision was not medically necessary or causally related to the accident. “
The no-fault peer review: If properly performed and utilized, it is a death trap. So I found the file online. The peer review was performed by Dr. Westerband. (He actually lost a threshold case as a plaintiff on a PI action). It has a Geico claim number and the vendor is my next door neighbor MedSource National. The medical rationale would not suffice for most arbitrators, but alas the Appellate Division found it persuasive. LOL?
Wei Lin v Sang Kim, 2019 NY Slip Op 00161 (2d Dept. 2019)
“The defendant’s expert merely summarized the medical records and certain deposition testimony, and opined in a conclusory manner that the defendant’s treatment of the injured plaintiff did not represent a departure from good and accepted medical practice .”
Interesting choice of terms to come up with as to the failure to make a prima facie burden.
Forest Drugs v Global Liberty Ins. Co. of N.Y., 2018 NY Slip Op 51708(U)(App. Term 1st Dept. 2018)
“In opposition, the medical affirmation submitted by plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue since it was not based on an examination of the assignor, nor did it meaningfully rebut the findings of defendant’s examining physician”
Mingmen Acupuncture Servs., PC v Global Liberty Ins. Co. of N.Y., 2018 NY Slip Op 51358(U)(App. Term 1st Dept. 2018)
In opposition, the affidavit of plaintiff’s principal failed to raise a triable issue since it was not based on an examination of the assignor, nor did it meaningfully rebut the findings of defendant’s examining acupuncturist/chiropractor, including the normal results of the range of motion testing (see Arnica Acupuncture PC v Interboard Ins. Co., 137 AD3d 421 ; Rummel G. Mendoza, D.C., P.C. v Chubb Indem. Ins. Co., 47 Misc 3d 156[A]). Nor did the assignor’s subjective complaints of pain overcome the objective medical tests detailed in the IME report (see Arnica Acupuncture PC v Interboard Ins. Co., 137 AD3d 421; TC Acupuncture, P.C. v Tri-State Consumer Ins. Co., 52 Misc 3d 131[A], 2016 NY Slip Op 50978[U] [App Term, 1st Dept 2016]).”
The test is whether there was an examination of the Assignor that did not have normal findings. The open question here is the time period of when this examination must take place. In this case, there was an examination that pre-dated the IME by 2-3 months. This was not sufficient. There was also scribbled treatment notes, but that will not carry the day. Also, do not mistake this case for the “contemporaneous” fallacy that has plagued AAA arbitrators when sizing up medical evidence.
My sense is when all the leaves on this issue are shaken out (there is more shaking going on than you are probably aware of), arbitrators may be stuck engaging in the painful task of looking at blocks of post IME treatment and determining whether they are appropriate once the presumption of medical necessity in the first instance is rebutted. That is, the Charles Sloan and Burt Feilich rule may very well be the correct statements of law.
The new fee schedule notwithstanding, the question here is whether MUA treatments were necessary. You saw part of the typical play by play in the MUA world.
- “Defendant’s witness, a chiropractor who had prepared the peer review report upon which defendant had relied…that the assignor had received standard chiropractic treatment for 10 weeks before the MUA treatments commenced.”
- “The witness also stated that there was no indication that the assignor had not been responding to the chiropractic treatments and that, in the witness’s opinion, the MUA treatments had been done prematurely and were not medically necessary. Defendant’s witness further testified that he “took issue with” the lack of second opinions for the MUAs.”
- Plaintiff’s rebuttal witness, the examining chiropractor, testified that, because the conservative care which the assignor had received for 10 weeks had resulted in only minimal improvement, he had recommended MUA treatments.
- Plaintiff’s witness testified that, based upon his own examinations of the assignor following each of the MUA treatments and his review of medical records, the assignor’s condition had improved because of the MUA treatments
- [t]he manipulation itself appears to be warranted,” and awarded judgment to plaintiff. “
What I always find helpful with the MUA cases are the MRI findings, EMG findings and Dr. Cerf is quite emphatic on data reliability and use of the outcome assessment test in formulating a treatment plan. The question here and perhaps the linchpin is what are “minimal improvements” and were some of the other treatment notes looked at?
The other thing that is unfortunate is that examinations prior and post MUA to determine whether an examination was done often do not occur. This would require an EUO to discern of course. This case, at best, looked a prototypical battle of the experts and plaintiff won. Absent some record gaffe, the order would invariably affirmed.
Why “contemporaneous” medical inquiry should not be the loadstar of medical necessity determinations
Hayes v Gaceur, 2018 NY Slip Op 04080 (1st Dept. 2018)
“In opposition, however, plaintiff raised an issue of fact as to her claimed cervical spine, shoulder and left knee injuries through the report of her treating orthopedic surgeon. The physician examined plaintiff the day after the accident and on several occasions thereafter. He found limitations in range of motion of her cervical spine the day after the accident and on recent examination; he examined plaintiff’s shoulders and left knee within a month after the accident and found limitations in range of motion at the initial examination and recently (see Perl v Meher, 18 NY3d 208, 218  [“Injuries can become significantly more or less severe as time passes”]”
Gullo v Bellhaven Ctr. for Geriatric & Rehabilitative Care, Inc., 2018 NY Slip Op 00279 (2d Dept. 2018)
“Here, Shapiro established his prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by submitting an affirmation of his medical expert, who addressed the specific allegations of malpractice set forth in the plaintiffs’ bills of particulars. The expert concluded that Shapiro did not [*2]depart from the applicable standard of care and that, in any event, the alleged departures were not a proximate cause of any alleged injuries. In opposition, the affidavit of the plaintiffs’ expert did not raise a triable issue of fact. Where, as here, “a physician opines outside his or her area of specialization, a foundation must be laid tending to support the reliability of the opinion” (DiLorenzo v Zaso, 148 AD3d 1111, 1113 [internal quotation marks omitted]; see Tsimbler v Fell, 123 AD3d 1009, 1009-1010; Feuer v Ng, 136 AD3d at 707). The plaintiffs’ expert failed to provide such foundation. ”
There is this doctor who is now signing affidavits of merit in Court actions. He is a pediatrician opining on the efficacy of pain creams. I will not say more.
Radiology Today, P.C. v Geico Ins. Co., 2017 NY Slip Op 51768(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2017)
(1) In this action by a provider to recover assigned first-party no-fault benefits for services it had provided to its assignor, a nonjury trial was held on the first cause of action, limited to defendant’s defense of lack of medical necessity (see CPLR 3212 [g]). Prior to defendant calling any witnesses, the Civil Court indicated that, as defendant would not be able to admit into evidence the peer review report upon which the denial of claim had been based “for the truth of what is in there,” defendant would not be able to meet its “burden.”[FN1] The court disagreed with [*2]defendant’s position that a “substitute doctor” could testify without the peer review report being admitted into evidence and directed a verdict in favor of plaintiff.
(2) “Contrary to the apparent holding of the Civil Court, an insurer cannot use a peer review report at trial for its “truth,” i.e., to prove the insurer’s defense of lack of medical necessity (see Alev Med. Supply, Inc. v Government Empls. Ins. Co., 40 Misc 3d 128[A], 2013 NY Slip Op 51096[U] [App Term, 2d Dept, 2d, 11th & 13th Jud Dists 2013]; A-Quality Med. Supply v GEICO Gen. Ins. Co., 39 Misc 3d 24, 26 [App Term, 2d Dept, 2d, 11th & 13th Jud Dists 2013]). Indeed, the “admission of a peer review report into evidence as part of a defendant’s proof of lack of medical necessity may constitute impermissible bolstering of its expert’s testimony” (A-Quality Med. Supply, 39 Misc 3d at 26). While an insurer’s expert witness’s testimony should be limited to the basis for the denial as set forth in the peer review report (see e.g. Park Slope Med. & Surgical Supply, Inc. v Progressive Ins. Co., 34 Misc 3d 154[A], 2012 NY Slip Op 50349[U] [App Term, 2d Dept, 2d, 11th & 13th Jud Dists 2012]), “it is plaintiff’s burden to make an appropriate objection in the event the testimony goes beyond the basis for the denial and, if necessary, produce the peer review report”
Surgicare Surgical Assoc. of Fair Lawn v State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 2017 NY Slip Op 32202(U)(Krauss, J.)
Surgery denials on medical necessary grounds are probably the most difficult to substantiate in the arbitral forum. Whether the applicant has no rebuttal, a letter of medical necessity or a full discussion, the losses are unacceptably high. The litigation scene is a little better as the peers often go unrebutted. Yet, this case from Civil Bronx mirrors the common arbitration award I have been reviewing the last few weeks on this project.
(1) Dr. Scarpinto did review the physical therapy notes
Dr. Scarpinto felt that surgery was not warranted based on Assignor’s medical records. Dr. Scarpinto stated that the progress reports for Assignor’s Physical Therapy consistently described his progress as good, and she relied heavily on this fact. The reports she based this on however, are not fact filled narratives about the Assignor’s progress, but rather a series of multiple choice options circled and signed off on by a therapist. Each date has the same options circled from the first date of therapy, through the last. The five options available to circle on the report under progress were very good, good, fair or poor.
(2) Dr. Scarpinto did not review the acupuncture notes
[the acupuncture notes were not reviewed in the report]. These reports cover a period from March through July 2013 and show that Assignor continued to seek relief from the pain, and while the Acupuncture treatments were often noted as
helping, as of July 2013, Assignor continued to suffer from pain and at times perceived no relief in pain even with the treatments
(3) Dr. Scarpinto’s medical rationale for denying treatment
Dr. Sacrpinto did not appear to believe that the physical therapy was as aggressive as it could have been, noting in her peer review “(i)t is important to stress that these physical therapy treatments did not include any form of active rehabilitation which is the standard of care in the rehabilitation of a knee injury. In this case, passive modalities were provided to the claimant …(Peer Review)”.
Dr. Scarpinto also did not believe the information, provided by the Assignor and accepted by his doctors, that Assignor had no prior problems with his knee. She testified at trial that she did not believe the accident caused Assignor’s knee injury. This is also reflected in her Peer Review where she stated “(e)ssentially, the findings notes on this MRI strongly suggest long standing degenerative processes that do not appear to be directly related to the motor vehicle accident in question.”
Dr. Scarpinto then concluded that surgery was not appropriate for a degenerative knee condition and relied upon an article from a medical journal, also submitted in evidence, which specifies the limitations of surgery for a degenerative condition. The article does however state “.. (p)atients with realistic expectations of surgical outcome who specifically understand that the goal of the surgery is to diminish pain and improve function and not to cure their arthritis “ would be appropriate candidates for surgery
(4) Court disproves defense
Dr. Scarpinto was justified in basing her opinion on the assumption that Assignor was lying about previous problems with his left knee, and that the accident was not the cause of his injury, Dr. Scarpinto failed to establish through her testimony that surgery was inconsistent with generally accepted medical practices. While her testimony did establish that there are limitations as to when surgery is appropriate, the authority she relied upon specifically provides that it may be appropriate for patients with realistic expectations as to the surgery being intended to reduce pain rather than cure the degenerative condition. It is precisely due to the ongoing chronic pain that Assignor was referred for the surgery.
It is hard to tell if this decision resulted from naivete, inappropriately stressing a lack of causal relationship defense that cannot be substantiated without the MRI films and the surgical photos discussed to the trier of the fact or the notion that lack of appropraite physical therapy treatment does not substantiate a lack of medical necessity for extremity surgery. I cannot tell where this case fell.
But assume the doctor was asked the hypothetical as to why the acupuncture notes did not matter? Assume the doctor was asked as to why certain types of physical therapy meet some standard (what is the standard)? Assume the doctor was asked as to the articles, treatises or textbooks stating that the appropriateness of a certain type of PT is a condition precedent to surgery? Would any of that have established a lack of medical necessity?
Also, inasmuch as the knee is avascular, does the literature support repairing an organ that will not heal on its own? Will an untreated knee with a tear lead to eventual arthrocis without surgery The decision is disturbing as a defense practitioner – mainly because I cannot grasp what happened at this bench trial.