Natural Therapy Acupuncture, P.C. v State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 2014 NY Slip Op 51310(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2014)
I often feel like this Plaintiff attorney is seeking to reinvent the wheel. It is just amazing how many times he appeals the SAME issues and (surprisingly) receives the SAME results. And each decision comments on one more subtle defect in this particular attorneys arguments. This is how bad law is made.
“In appeal, plaintiff argues that defendant failed to prove that it had mailed its EUO scheduling letters and denial of claim forms or that plaintiff had failed to appear for the EUOs; that defendant lacked justification for its EUO requests; and that defendant’s motion should have been denied pursuant to CPLR 3212 (f), as plaintiff had not received discovery regarding the reasonableness of defendant’s EUO requests.”
(1) “EUO scheduling letters and the denial of claim forms had been timely mailed in accordance with defendant’s standard office practices and procedures”
(2) “the affirmation submitted by defendant’s attorney, who was present in his office to conduct plaintiff’s EUO on the scheduled dates, was sufficient to establish that plaintiff had failed to appear.”
(3) “Furthermore, since plaintiff does not claim to have responded in any way to the EUO requests, its objections regarding the EUO requests will not now be heard ”
(4) “Consequently, discovery relevant to the reasonableness of the EUO requests was not necessary for plaintiff to oppose defendant’s motion”
Hillside OpenMRI, P.C. v Allstate Ins. Co., 2014 NY Slip Op 51143(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2014)
With respect to the second cause of action, seeking to recover upon a claim for $878.66, and the third cause of action, seeking attorney’s fees with respect thereto, defendant’s claim representative stated that defendant had received plaintiff’s claim for the sum of $878.66 on July 8, 2010 and that it had denied the claim on October 4, 2010. She also stated that defendant had [*2]sent delay letters, dated July 30, 2010 and September 9, 2010 to plaintiff after the receipt of the claim. The letters informed plaintiff that payment of the claim would be delayed pending an EUO of the injured party. However, an insurer’s delay letters, which request no verification, are insufficient to toll the 30-day statutory time period within which a claim must be paid or denied (see Nyack Hosp. v Encompass Ins. Co., 23 AD3d 535 ). Since defendant did not establish that it had otherwise tolled its time to pay or deny the claims, defendant failed to demonstrate that the claim underlying these causes of action had been timely denied. Thus, the branches of defendant’s motion seeking dismissal of the second and third causes of action were properly denied.”
The question that is present is this: What does a delay letter have to say to preserve an EUO no-show defense? Does the date of the EUO have to be set forth on the delay letters to the provider? It is a bit disconcerting because this is not the all purpose “we are delaying your bill, check in with us one day.” It told the provider why the bill was on hold. “prejudice” is “surprise.” No surprise here. The provider knew what the good hands people were doing. A senseless decision.
American States Ins. Co. v Huff, 2014 NY Slip Op 05366 (1st Dept. 2014)
(1) “[p]laintiff’s motion for summary judgment as sought a declaration that plaintiff properly disclaimed coverage of its insured…”
(2) “Plaintiff commenced this action, in effect, seeking a declaration that it is not obligated to pay these no-fault benefits to defendants because, among other reasons, Huff failed to complete an examination under oath (EUO), as required by the subject insurance policy. Thus, plaintiff asserts that Huff breached a condition precedent to coverage under the policy, and defendant medical providers are not entitled to recover Huff’s no-fault benefits.”
(3) “We find that Supreme Court properly granted summary judgment in plaintiff’s favor. In support of its motion, plaintiff relied primarily upon Huff’s EUO, which was corroborated by the affidavit of plaintiff’s investigator who was present at the examination. The EUO established that Huff appeared for his EUO, but departed before questions regarding the accident and his injuries had been asked. The aborted EUO of Huff, the named insured, established a prima facie case that Huff had breached a condition precedent to coverage under the policy.”
(4) “In opposition, defendants do not dispute what occurred at the EUO. Instead, defendants argue that the transcript of the EUO was inadmissible. We find, however, that the EUO [*2]transcript of Huff was admissible evidence on the motion for summary judgment as it was certified by the court reporter and is considered a party admission (see Zalot v Zieba, 81 AD3d 935, 936 [2nd Dept 2011], lv denied 117 NY3d 703 ))”
(5) “Insofar as defendants complain that plaintiff did not seek another EUO, the record demonstrates that Huff, represented by counsel, was advised of the ramifications of his refusal to continue the EUO, and confirmed that he understood.”
(6) “An assignee “stands in the shoes” of an assignor and thus acquires no greater rights than its assignor (see Arena Const. Co. v Sackaris & Sons, 282 AD2d 489 [2d Dept 2001]; see also Dilon Med. Supply Corp. v Travelers Ins. Co., 7 Misc 3d 927, 930 [Civ Ct, Kings County 2005]). Since the defense of the breach of a condition precedent to coverage under the policy may indisputably be raised by plaintiff against Huff, it is available as against defendants, who accepted assignments of no-fault benefits (see Hammelburger v Foursome Inn Corp., 54 NY2d 580, 586 ; Losner v Cashline, L.P., 303 AD2d 647, 648 [2nd Dept 2003]).”
This is perhaps the DJ of the year so far. So many principles of law have been established and/or confirmed. First, the medical provider and or assignor must cooperate with the EUO, i.e., attend it and answer questions. Second, the failure to cooperate during the EUO through walking out during it, objecting too many times, engaging in obstructionist behavior can lead to a violation of a condition precedent to coverage, provided Park v. Long Island Insurance Company warnings are set forth.
The unsettled question that may play out now is: what constitutes obstructionist behavior? We know the outter bounds of what constitutes this behavior. But, how many objections is required before a disclaimer may be issued? What happens if an EIP or medical provider lies during the EUO? How does Utica v. Timms (you can lie and not lose your benefits) work into this equation? There a lot of unanswered questions. In my mind, the extremes will allow for a disclaimer. Misrepresentations and a few inappropriate objections will probably not trigger a Huff remedy.
On top of that, the contents of the EUO transcript are admissible without further foundation against the medical provider. Counsel for Defendant was successful at making that argument in Civil Court Kings County against me a few years ago, i.e., you cannot use the contents of the EUO transcript against the innocent assignee. I thought it was an incredulous argument, which would be shot down at the Appellate Term or Appellate Division.
Funny enough, counsel in the Civil Kings case pressed his luck in front of the First Department and rightfully saw what five learned jurists had to say about that argument. These are all good things in my mind.
I believe that this case is probably somewhere between the ATIC dj appeals and Unitrin as to its precedential value.
Natural Therapy Acupuncture, P.C. v State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 2014 NY Slip Op 50134(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2014)
“Contrary to plaintiff’s argument, the affidavits submitted by defendant established that the EUO scheduling letters and the denial of claim forms had been timely mailed in accordance with its standard office practices and procedures (see St. Vincent’s Hosp. of Richmond v Government Empls. Ins. Co., 50 AD3d 1123 ; Delta Diagnostic Radiology, P.C. v Chubb Group of Ins., 17 Misc 3d 16 [App Term, 2d & 11th Jud Dists 2007]). Furthermore, since plaintiff does not claim to have responded in any way to the EUO requests, its objections regarding the EUO requests will not now be heard (see Viviane Etienne Med. Care, P.C. v State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 35 Misc 3d 127[A], 2012 NY Slip Op 50579[U] [App Term, 2d, 11th & 13th Jud Dists 2012]; Crescent Radiology, PLLC v American Tr. Ins. Co., 31 Misc 3d 134[A], 2011 NY Slip Op 50622[U] [App Term, 9th & 10th Jud Dists 2011]). Consequently, discovery relevant to the reasonableness of the EUO requests was not necessary for plaintiff to oppose defendant’s motion (see CPLR 3212 [f]). Finally, contrary to plaintiff’s argument on appeal, the affirmation submitted by defendant’s attorney, who was present in his office to conduct plaintiff’s EUO on the scheduled dates, was sufficient to establish that plaintiff had failed to appear.”
Interboro Ins. Co. v Clennon, 2014 NY Slip Op 00092 (2d Dept. 2014)
While of course I am happy to have won, and, in addition, I can say I have written more IME/EUO no show briefs than I could ever imagine, this case leaves me with a “where are we going” feeling. I wrote the brief, argued the appeal and know the record, so this opinion – how it was written – was unexpected.
Should I now start filing in Nassau again? Well, it is across the street from my office and the filing rules are a lot more convenient than what I encounter at a Motion Support Part, Room 130. The clerks are nice there. For instance, a clerk in Supreme Queens told me today that there was no such thing as a hybrid Article 78/Dec action and started crossing out “Plaintiff” (next to petitioner) and “Defendant” (next to respondent) on my papers. I decided that I would file my memorandum of law on the return date in the Central Motion Part courtroom. I shrugged my shoulder since that was not the fight to pick.
So what did Clennon say:
“The failure to comply with the provision of an insurance policy requiring the insured to submit to an examination under oath . . . is a material breach of the policy, precluding recovery of the policy proceeds” (Argento v Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 184 AD2d 487, 487-488; see Unitrin Advantage Ins. Co. v Bayshore Physical Therapy, PLLC, 82 AD3d 559).”
Argento does not mention preclusion. It solely states that failing to attend an EUO is fatal to the Claimant’s right of recovery under the policy. Then Unitrin is mentioned, which is what started this whole coverage storm. And Unitrin and all of the First Department cases I won that cite to it state that timeliness is irrelevant.
What was not mentioned? Westchester v. Lincoln. The court was well aware of that decision as it was in Appellant’s brief and mentioned during argument. This omission was no accident by the way.
Then the Court states this in one sentence: “Here, the plaintiff insurer established as a matter of law that it twice duly demanded an examination under oath from the appellants’ assignor, who had allegedly been injured in a motor vehicle accident, that the assignor twice failed to appear, and that the plaintiff issued a timely denial of the claims arising from the appellants’ treatment of the assignor.”
Was the “timeliness” issue dicta? In other words, mention it so that way the Court did not have to unequivocally reach the Unitrin issue? I suspect this is what happened, and I truly believe that through arguing this case. I think the court passed the buck to the Appellate Term, Second Department, to see what they will do.
By analogy, do any of you remember when the Appellate Term, First Department in 2006 said: “Even assuming, without deciding, that a peer review report may suffice, without more, to establish a prima facie showing of lack of medical necessity” (Vladimir Zlatnick, M.D., P.C. v Travelers Indem. Co., 12 Misc.3d 128(A))? Now, Plaintiffs in the First Department on appeal depending on the case have to jump through hoops to beat back summary judgment on the issue of lack of medical necessity. I think this could be the beginning of the tide change, a slow one at that.
The only problem with my hypothesis is that inasmuch as so few failure to comply cases make it to the Appellate Division, Second Department, it will be many years before my hypothesis is proven correctly or incorrectly.
A few more tidbits. The Court accepted the same affidavit of mailing and no show that was accepted in Ortho Prods. & Equip., Inc. v Interboro Ins. Co., 41 Misc.3d 143(A) and Quality Psychological Servs., P.C. v Interboro Mut. Indem. Ins. Co., 36 Misc 3d 146(A). This is similar to American Transit v. Lucas, where the Appellate Division, First Department, accepted a no-show affidavit that was between “I was there and he did not show” and the conclusory “I am a partner and I know he did not show”. So, Alrof is dead but W&Z is not revived. Something in the middle is the law. In addition, Defendant argued vigorously that my affidavit was not Alrof compliant, so the issue was squarely before the Court.
The court also found persuasive the argument that discovery was waived since there was no challenge to the propriety of the EUO notices during the claims verification sta ge.
I wish I could say there would be more of these cases being appealed to this Court, but this was my only Second Department case (from my 2010 inventory) and I was Respondent. I think Progressive files a lot of no-show DJ’s in Nassau?
Concourse Chiropractic, PLLC v State Farm Mut. Ins. Co., 2013 NY Slip Op 52225(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2013)
“[w]e find that the affidavits submitted by defendant established that the examination under oath (EUO) notices had been timely sent to plaintiff (see St. Vincent’s Hosp. of Richmond v Government Empls. Ins. Co., 50 AD3d 1123 ; Richard Morgan Do, P.C. v State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 22 Misc 3d 134[A], 2009 NY Slip Op 50242[U] [App Term, 9th & 10th Jud Dists 2009]), and that plaintiff had failed to appear for the EUOs”
“The District Court correctly found that defendant demonstrated that the claims underlying these causes of action had been timely denied (see St. Vincent’s Hosp. of Richmond, 50 AD3d 1123) based on plaintiff’s nonappearance at the EUOs. In light of the foregoing, since plaintiff’s appearance at the EUOs “is a condition precedent to the insurer’s liability on the policy” (Stephen Fogel Psychological, P.C., 35 AD3d at 722; see also Insurance Department Regulations [11 NYCRR] § 65-1.1), the burden shifted to plaintiff to rebut defendant’s prima facie showing. However, as the District Court found, plaintiff did not respond in any way to the EUO scheduling letters sent by defendant. Since the opposing affirmation submitted by plaintiff’s counsel was insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact with respect to the claims denied on the ground that plaintiff had failed to appear at the EUOs“
Canarsie Chiropractic, P.C. v State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 2013 NY Slip Op 51457(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2013)
“Plaintiff argues that defendant failed to prove that it had timely mailed its EUO scheduling letters and denial of claim forms, that defendant’s EUO requests were not justified, and that defendant’s motion should have been denied pursuant to CPLR 3212 (f).”
“Since plaintiff does not claim to have responded in any way to the EUO requests, its objections regarding the EUO requests will not be heard, and therefore discovery relevant to the reasonableness of the EUO requests was not necessary to oppose the motion (see CPLR 3212 [f]).”
This is the first time that the court has held that the failure to respond to an EUO demand estopps the provider from seeking disclosure as to the reasonableness of the EUO letters.
Praetorian v. Mercado, Index #: 303993/12 (Sup. Ct. Bx. Co. 2013)
In this declaratory judgment action, an Alrof argument was made; an electronic signature argument was made; a “you cannot file a DJ argument” was made; the you did not prove you mailed it argument was made; and an EUO provision was not in the policy argument was made. Missing was an argument that there was no justiciable controversy (which is always denied) and that discovery was outstanding (which is usually denied).
The objections to the DJ’s are getting longer as the days are getting shorter. The common denominator of what is missing is: a non-conclusory affidavit from the EIP that he never received the EUO’/IME notices (See American Transit Ins. Co. v. Bachus) or an affidavit from the EIP that (s)he attended the EUO/IME.
American Transit v. Chedister , Index #: 301921/12 (Sup. Ct. Bronx Co. 2013)
Supreme Court could not be anymore emphatic that it is not impressed with the Alrof v. Safeco argument that provider attorneys throw around when trying to get around an EUO no-show case. Personal knowledge is not as personal as some want it to mean.
Unitrin has created this vacuum where the failure to control ones Assignor has spelled unabated doom to many a medical clinic. Imagine having this conversation during that crazy period when the law was “the failure to attend an IME rebuts the presumption of medical necessity?” and the App. Term 1st Dept did everything in the power to avoid ruling on the merits of these cases?
(The commentator Captain America would probably think that it is unconstitutional to demand an innocent Assignor to be deposed and examined in accordance with the insurance policy upon which she is either the NI or the third-party beneficiary)
Dowd v Praetorian Ins. Co., 2012 NY Slip Op 51160(U)(App. Term 1st Dept. 2012)
“The defendant-insurer made a prima facie showing of entitlement to summary judgment dismissing the action for first-party no-fault benefits by establishing that it timely and properly mailed the notices for independent medical examinations (IMEs) and examinations under oath (EUOs) to plaintiff’s assignor, and that the assignor failed to appear (see Unitrin Advantage Ins. Co. v Bayshore Physical Therapy, PLLC, 82 AD3d 559, 560 ; cf. Stephen Fogel Psychological, P.C. v Progressive Cas. Ins. Co., 35 AD3d 720, 721 ). In opposition, plaintiff did not specifically deny the assignor’s nonappearance or otherwise raise a triable issue with respect thereto, or as to the mailing or reasonableness of the underlying notices (see Unitrin at 560).”