Plaintiff’s conclusory affidavit is insufficient to defeat an insurance carrier’s lack of medical necessity motion

Now, Travelers has joined in the parade to non-suit plaintiffs who put in pro-forma affidavits of medical necessity in an attempt to defeat an insurance carrier’s well support summary judgment motion:

In Innovative Chiropractic, P.C. v Travelers Ins. Co., 2009 NY Slip Op 52447(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2009), the following was observed:

“In support of its cross motion, defendant annexed an affidavit and a peer review report from the chiropractor who performed the peer review, which established a lack of medical necessity with respect to plaintiff’s $425.44 claim. In opposition thereto, plaintiff’s treating [*2]chiropractor submitted an affidavit in which he merely stated that the treatment was medically necessary, without setting forth any facts to support the conclusion. Consequently, plaintiff’s opposition papers failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to medical necessity (see Bronze Acupuncture, P.C. v Mercury Ins. Co., 24 Misc 3d 126[A], 2009 NY Slip Op 51219[U] [App Term, 2d, 11th & 13th Jud Dists 2009]). Accordingly, defendant’s cross motion for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff’s fifth cause of action should have been granted (see Continental Med., P.C. v Mercury Cas. Co., 22 Misc 3d 134[A], 2009 NY Slip Op 50234[U] [App Term, 2d, 11th & 13th Jud Dists 2009]

I end this post with the following thought.  If you are litigating medical necessity cases against an insurance carrier who makes these types of motions and gears their papers to the eventual trip to the Appellate Term, then you had better make sure that your answering papers not only have affidavits of merit, but have affidavits that are factually detailed and contain a valid medical rationale.  The attorney arguments that many times win in Civil Court or District Court, usually do not fly at the Appellate Term.  I think the failure to procure affidavits of a merit is a risk that is not worth taking.  But that is my take and Mercury’s take on these issues.

Plaintiff's conclusory affidavit is insufficient to defeat an insurance carrier's lack of medical necessity motion

Now, Travelers has joined in the parade to non-suit plaintiffs who put in pro-forma affidavits of medical necessity in an attempt to defeat an insurance carrier’s well support summary judgment motion:

In Innovative Chiropractic, P.C. v Travelers Ins. Co., 2009 NY Slip Op 52447(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2009), the following was observed:

“In support of its cross motion, defendant annexed an affidavit and a peer review report from the chiropractor who performed the peer review, which established a lack of medical necessity with respect to plaintiff’s $425.44 claim. In opposition thereto, plaintiff’s treating [*2]chiropractor submitted an affidavit in which he merely stated that the treatment was medically necessary, without setting forth any facts to support the conclusion. Consequently, plaintiff’s opposition papers failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to medical necessity (see Bronze Acupuncture, P.C. v Mercury Ins. Co., 24 Misc 3d 126[A], 2009 NY Slip Op 51219[U] [App Term, 2d, 11th & 13th Jud Dists 2009]). Accordingly, defendant’s cross motion for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff’s fifth cause of action should have been granted (see Continental Med., P.C. v Mercury Cas. Co., 22 Misc 3d 134[A], 2009 NY Slip Op 50234[U] [App Term, 2d, 11th & 13th Jud Dists 2009]

I end this post with the following thought.  If you are litigating medical necessity cases against an insurance carrier who makes these types of motions and gears their papers to the eventual trip to the Appellate Term, then you had better make sure that your answering papers not only have affidavits of merit, but have affidavits that are factually detailed and contain a valid medical rationale.  The attorney arguments that many times win in Civil Court or District Court, usually do not fly at the Appellate Term.  I think the failure to procure affidavits of a merit is a risk that is not worth taking.  But that is my take and Mercury’s take on these issues.

The treating doctor must meaningfully disagree with the IME doctor’s findings and conclusions that prospective services are not medically necessary

In the upcoming days, you will see the case of “Innovative Chiropractic v. Mercury Ins. Co” pop up on the most recent decision website.  Innovative Chiropractic will cite to “Pan Chiropractic v. Mercury Ins. Co”, and factually, it will read like “Bronze Acupuncture v. Mercury Ins. Co.”  You will also learn that the case was worth $168.00, and might wonder what I was thinking when I appealed it.  But most importantly, you will see that there are certain trends in the law that are now being created.  As a defendant, these trends are quite desirable; yet as a Plaintiff, these trends are clearly not the end of the world or anywhere near it.  This is all just another day in the land of New York no-fault.

Here it is: Innovative Chiropractic, P.C. v Mercury Ins. Co. 2009 NY Slip Op 52321(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2009)

The treating doctor must meaningfully disagree with the IME doctor's findings and conclusions that prospective services are not medically necessary

In the upcoming days, you will see the case of “Innovative Chiropractic v. Mercury Ins. Co” pop up on the most recent decision website.  Innovative Chiropractic will cite to “Pan Chiropractic v. Mercury Ins. Co”, and factually, it will read like “Bronze Acupuncture v. Mercury Ins. Co.”  You will also learn that the case was worth $168.00, and might wonder what I was thinking when I appealed it.  But most importantly, you will see that there are certain trends in the law that are now being created.  As a defendant, these trends are quite desirable; yet as a Plaintiff, these trends are clearly not the end of the world or anywhere near it.  This is all just another day in the land of New York no-fault.

Here it is: Innovative Chiropractic, P.C. v Mercury Ins. Co. 2009 NY Slip Op 52321(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2009)

The standard to rebut a peer review was raised a few notches

Pan Chiropractic, P.C. v Mercury Ins. Co.
2009 NY Slip Op 51495(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2009)

Sensing the belief that no-fault actions were starting to follow the trend in Ins Law 5102(d) actions (the no-fault threshold statute), the Defendant appealed the order finding that Plaintiff’s affidavit of merit was sufficient to raise a triable issue of fact, in opposition to Defendant’s summary judgment motion.

Factually, this case involved $660 worth of diagnostic testing. Defendant’s peer review set forth numerous reasons and cited to various authorities for the proposition that the diagnostic testing was either never necessary or not necessary in relation to the patient’s presented symptomology.

Plaintiff relied on the reports annexed to Defendant’s papers and concluded that the services were indeed medically necessary. There was no meaningful disagreement with Defendant’s doctor’s medical rationale for finding that the services lacked medical necessity.

The Court in applying the meaningful disagreement standard found in 5102(d) causation cases rightly found that Plaintiff failed to rebut the inference that the services lacked medical necessity.

I would opine that a provider, in successfully opposing this type of motion, is going to have to send these cases to their own peer doctor to perform a utilization review in their own right in order to raise a triable issue of fact in opposition to a defendant’s motion for summary judgment. This should be interesting.

Is it medically necessary?

In an indiscreet case which garnered a “u” cite, the Appellate Term, Second Department made its first foray into determining what evidence is sufficient to raise an issue of fact as to a service’s medical reasonableness in opposition to a well supported peer review. The case on point is Park Slope Med. & Surgical Supply, Inc. v New York Cent. Mut. Fire Ins. Co. 2009 NY Slip Op 50441(U)(App. Term 2d Dept. 2009). The pertinent portion of the opinion went as follows:

“[i]n response to defendant’s cross motion, plaintiff submitted an affidavit from Dr. Shapiro in which he stated that he disagreed with the peer review report and affidavit furnished by defendant because he concluded that the supplies provided were medically necessary. Since the affidavit of Dr. Shapiro demonstrated the existence of an issue of fact as to medical necessity”

It bears in mind that the “Dr. Shapiro” affidavit is boilerplate in nature, having seen a few of them. Yet, under the circumstances of this case, I cannot say the court was wrong in its holding.

Assume for argument sake that Defendant failed to annex the documents his expert relied upon in forming his file based review. This is probably a valid assumption knowing what these motions tend to look like. In this instance, the Court should have found that Defendant did not meet its burden, and should have actually granted Plaintiff summary judgment. A peer report in opposition to a summary judgment motion that does not disclose the peer documents the reviewer relied upon simply fails to raise a triable issue of fact. Yet, until the Appellate Term addresses that issue, it is fair to say that the Court really did not have a choice but to find that Plaintiff raised an issue of fact. Bewteen the lines, the court was asking how a Plaintiff could honestly oppose a file review without the file? Hopefully, the Court in the future will cite to Cariddi v. Hassan and skip the step of finding a medical provider’s conclusory affidavit to be sufficient to oppose a non-supported peer report.

I suspect that this is just the beginning of the development as to this discreet area of no-fault law.

I would add this remark. The trend in New York practice has been to transform summary judgment motions from the traditional of “issue finding” into an exercise in “issue determination”. In other words, the courts used to deny summary judgment motions should there be a specter of a factual issue lurking somewhere. Now, the motion court will determine the merits of the issue on a motion for summary judgment.

This above trend is remarkable since every lower court decision that discusses an SJ motion always cites to the Court of Appeals cases, which hold that even the specter of a triable issue of fact should defeat a summary judgment motion. Shakepearean overtones I suspect – appearance verses reality.

But in the modern realities of life, the courts are telling the litigants that if you want a plenary trial, you need to earn it. In no-fault we had this shoved down our throats through “Dan Medical” and “Contempt v. Geico” prior to “Delta v. Chubb” and “St. Vincent v. Geico.” In the analogous 5102(d) land, “Toure” and “Pommels” proved this point too well. The list goes on and on…

Thus, we shall see how the lack of medical necessity jurisprudence develops. I just hope it does not suffer the same inconsistencies that we have found in the “EUO” default contexts.

Med Mal and Procedural case

This is similar to the cases where a peer doctor fails to review sufficient documentation before arriving at an opinion.

“Lack of Foundation to form an expert opinion”

Luu v Paskowski
2008 NY Slip Op 10135 (2d Dept. 2008)

The pertinent portion of this case is as follows:

“[Plaintiff’s expert] Zola did not refer to any part of the hospital records, and did not state when the blood loss occurred or how it caused the small bowel obstruction and hematoma. Zola made no reference to any of the hospital records in his affidavit, and did not state that he had reviewed the pleadings and depositions. Zola’s affidavit was conclusory and lacked a foundation (see Thompson v Orner, 36 AD3d at 792; Furey v Kraft, 27 AD3d at 418).

Procedural – default viz a vi failure to obtain an adjournment on the record

Diamond v Diamante
2008 NY Slip Op 10117 (2d Dept. 2008)

“plaintiffs and their attorney, nonparty James D. Reddy, appeal from a judgmentwhich, inter alia, upon the denial of the plaintiffs’ application for an adjournment, is in favor of the defendants and against the plaintiff, dismissing the complaint, and against the nonparty James D. Reddy awarding costs and imposing sanctions.”

“Where, as here, the order appealed from was made upon the plaintiffs’ default, “review is limited to matters which were the subject of contest below” (Matter of Constance P. v Avraam G., 27 AD3d 754, 755 [internal quotations marks omitted]; see James v Powell, 19 NY2d 249, 256 n 3; Wexler v Wexler, 34 AD3d 458, 459; Brown v Data Communications, 236 AD2d 499). [*2]Accordingly, in this case, review is limited to the denial of the plaintiffs’ request for an adjournment, on the appeal by the plaintiffs, and the award of costs and imposition of sanctions against nonparty James D. Reddy, on the appeal by the nonparty (see Matter of Paulino v Camacho, 36 AD3d 821, 822; Tun v Aw, 10 AD3d 651, 652).

Turning to the merits, “[t]he granting of an adjournment for any purpose is a matter resting within the sound discretion of the trial court” (Matter of Anthony M., 63 NY2d 270, 283; see Matter of Steven B., 6 NY3d 888, 889; Matter of Sicurella v Embro, 31 AD3d 651, lv denied 7 NY3d 717), and its determination will not be disturbed absent an improvident exercise of that discretion (see Davidson v Davidson, 54 AD3d 988). “In making such a determination, the court must undertake a balanced consideration of all relevant factors” (Matter of Sicurella v Embro, 31 AD3d at 651), including “the merit or lack of merit of the action, extent of the delay,” the number of adjournments granted, the “lack of intent to deliberately default or abandon the action” and the length of the pendency of the proceeding (Belsky v Lowell, 117 AD2d 575, 576; see Matter of Claburn v Claburn, 128 AD2d 937, 938).”

The future is bright for medical necessity msj's

Again, this is not necessarily a pure no-fault post. However, this is a no-fault post by analogy. I came across a doosy of a decision and order from the Appellate Division, Second Department. It kind of cuts both ways on two different issues. Hopefully you will see where I am going with this, after you see the excepts I am publishing.

Geffner v North Shore Univ. Hosp.
2008 NY Slip Op 10124 (2d Dept. 2008)

To support her allegations [of medical malpractice and in opposition to Defendant’s motion for summary judgment], the plaintiff submitted the expert affidavit of Charles Phillips, a physician certified in emergency medicine. Dr. Phillips’ affidavit was of no probative value, however, as it contained opinions outside his area of expertise and did not establish a foundation for his opinions (see Glazer v Choong-Hee Lee, 51 AD3d 970; Mustello v Berg, 44 AD3d 1018, 1018-1019; Behar v Coren, 21 AD3d 1045, 1046-1047)….

“Finally, the plaintiff submitted the expert affirmations of Howard C. Adelman, a physician certified in clinical pathology and cytopathology, which alleged that the defendant doctors misdiagnosed the decedent as suffering from myelodysplastic syndrome, acute myeloid leukemia, and adenocarcinoma. Dr. Adelman’s affirmations were insufficient to raise a triable issue of fact with respect to the alleged misdiagnoses since they failed to address the evidence relied upon by North Shore’s experts in rendering their opinions that the diagnoses were correct (see Germaine v Yu, 49 AD3d 685, 687; Fhima v Maimonides Med. Ctr., 269 AD2d 559, 560).

Issue #1: Doctors who give opinions outside their scope of expertise.

This is a problem, however, an accounting of their skills and expertise should get one of the trouble that was wrought in this cae

Issue #2: Failure to address movant’s proof.

Big problem in no-fault litigation.