November 21, 2018

Big Apple Med. Supply, Inc. v Nationwide Affinity Ins. Co. of Am. (2018 NY Slip Op 51659(U))


The court considered a motion by the defendant to grant summary judgment and dismiss the complaint based on the plaintiff's failure to respond within 120 days to the initial request for verification. The main issue was whether the defendant could prove by admissible evidence that it did not receive the requested verification within the allotted 120-day period. The court held that defendant's conclusory denial of receipt was insufficient to make a prima facie showing of entitlement to summary judgment. Additionally, the court found that the defendant failed to produce an original "certificate of conformity" for two affidavits, rendering the affidavits inadmissible as a matter of law. As a result, the defendant failed to establish their entitlement to summary judgment by admissible evidence, and the motion for summary judgment was denied.

Reported in New York Official Reports at Big Apple Med. Supply, Inc. v Nationwide Affinity Ins. Co. of Am. (2018 NY Slip Op 51659(U))

Big Apple Medical Supply, Inc., a/a/o Tushaun Plummer, Plaintiff,


Nationwide Affinity Ins. Co. of America, Defendant.


For plaintiff:
David Landfair Esq.
Kopelevich & Feldsherova PC
241 37th Street, Suite B439
Brooklyn, NY 11232

For defendant:
Allan Hollander, Esq.
Bruno, Gerbino & Soriano, LLP
445 Broad Hollow Road, Suite 220
Melville, NY 11747

Odessa Kennedy, J.


Notice of Motion 1

Notice of Cross-Motion

Answering Affidavit 2

Reply Affidavit

In this action to recover first party no fault benefits, defendant moves for an order granting summary judgment and dismissing the complaint based on plaintiff’s failure to respond within 120 days to defendant’s initial request for verification.

In support of the motion, defendant submits the affidavits of its claim examiner in New York, Ms. McAndrews, and an employee of Auto Injury Solutions “AIS,” in Alabama, Ms. Ulmer. AIS is retained by defendant to receive and disseminate incoming mail related to no fault claims made against defendant, and, to mail medical providers or their assignees, verification requests which claims adjusters in New York electronically transmit to AIS. Ms. Ulmer submits two different affidavits, both dated August 4, 2017, which set forth AIS’s procedure for mailing verification requests, and procedure for documenting its receipt of incoming mail. Ms. McAndrews’ affidavit describes defendant’s procedures for electronically preparing and transmitting to AIS, defendant’s requests for verifications and denials.

Summary judgment is a drastic remedy (See Sillman v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 3 NY2d 395, 165 NYS2d 498 [957]), which should not be granted if there is any doubt as to the existence of a triable issue of fact. (See Rotuba Extruders, Inc. v. Ceppos, 46 NY2d 223, 413 NYS2d 141 [1978]). Hence, the court’s function in determining such a motion, is issue finding, not issue determination. (Id. Sillman at 395).

To prevail, the movant must establish entitlement to judgment as a matter of law, by submitting admissible evidentiary proof. (See Friends of Animals, Inc. v. Associate Fur Manufacturers, Inc., 46 NY2d 1065, 416 NYS2d 790 [1979]). Absent such a showing, the motion must be denied regardless of the sufficiency of opposing papers. (See Winegrad v. New York University Medical Center, 64 NY2d 851, 487 NYS2d 316 [1985]).

“A claim need not be paid or denied until all demanded verification is provided.” (New York & Presbyt. Hosp. v Progressive Cas. Ins. Co., 5 AD3d 568, 570, 774 NYS2d 72 [2d Dept 2004]; 11 NYCRR 65-3.5 [c]; 65-3.8 [a] [1].) If plaintiff fails to provide the requested verification within 120 calendar days from the date of the initial request, the insurer may deny the claim. (11 NYCRR 65-3.5 [o]).

In the instant action, the basis of defendant’s motion, to wit, plaintiff’s failure to provide requested verifications, requires defendant to unequivocally prove by admissible evidence that it did not receive the requested verification. Defendant’s conclusory denial of receipt, is insufficient to make out prima facie showing of defendant’s entitlement to summary judgment. (See Compas Med., P.C. v New York Cent. Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 50 Misc 3d 146[A], 36 N.Y.S.3d 46 [App Term, 2nd Dept 2016]).

While any mail containing plaintiff’s response to verification request would have been received by AIS in Alabama, Ms. McAndrews, defendant’s adjuster in New York, is the only affiant who states that AIS did not receive response to the verification requests, absent any evidence of her personal knowledge of AIS’s incoming mail procedures. Without demonstrating her personal knowledge of AIS’s internal mailing practices, Ms. McAndrew’s assertion that AIS did not receive verification responses lacks probative value. (see J.O.V. Acupuncture, P.C. v Amex Assur. Co., 55 Misc 3d 127[A], 55 N.Y.S.3d 692 [App Term, 1st Dept 2017]).

Ms. Ulmer, the affiant purportedly knowledgeable of AIS’s mailing procedures, states that she conducted a diligent search of the records in possession of AIS regarding the instant matter. She then lists the records, which she states are “annexed hereto,” but does not identify any exhibit, to which the described records are attached. Rather, there are some exhibits to the motion that contain records, which only defense counsel references in his affirmation. Defense counsel does not submit proof however, that the records annexed to those exhibits, are the records referenced in Ms. Ulmer’s affidavit, and that those records are all the documents Ms. Ulmer’s search had yielded.

Absent admissible evidence that the documents contained in the exhibits represent the totality of all documents obtained by Ms. Ulmer, defendant fails to establish, through any exhibit, the nature and the extend of the records that are in AIS’s possession.

Furthermore, Ms. Ulmer’s affidavit, describing the records she had obtained through her search, is ambiguous and insufficient to establish defendant’s burden that AIS has not received response to the verification requests.

Ms. Ulmer’s states that her “investigation revealed the following:” which she then attempts to numerically describe. Yet, Ms. Ulmer’s numeric description refers only to events, not the essence of the document necessary for its identification. Immediately appearing after the number one, the affidavit states: “document was received by AIS on 1/18/2017,” after number two, that “the document was indexed,” following numbers four and the five that “copies of EOR and NF10 were sent to the provider” and “to the assignor.”

As to item number three, Ms. Ulmer states that “the charges listed on the bill totaled $1039.69″ without providing any further details.

The inherent vagueness of Ms. Ulmer’s affidavit in her description of the records she had obtained, undermines defendants’ attempt to prove that AIS has not received response to the verification requests.

Moreover, while Ms. Ulmer could have avoided the ambiguity by unequivocally stating that her search did not reveal any response to verification requests, Ms. Ulmer, in contrast to Ms. McAndrews, does not make any such statement. Nor does she state that the records she attempted to describe, are the only records in AIS’s possession.

Furthermore, the ambiguous affidavit becomes evidently inaccurate, when Ms. Ulmer incorrectly states “all the documents” (including the bill prepared by plaintiff in the sum of $1039.69) were “prepared” in the regular course of” business of AIS, underscoring the unreliability the affidavit.

The Court further notes that Ms. Ulmer submits two distinct affidavits that are both executed in Alabama on August 4, 2017. CPLR 2309(c) states that an oath taken outside of New York State must be accompanied by a certificate, commonly referred to as “certificate of conformity” attesting that the oath that was taken in the foreign state was done so in accordance with the laws of that jurisdiction or of New York.

Defendant fails to produce an original “certificate of conformity” for either affidavit. Instead, defendant annexes to both affidavits identical copies a single certificate of conformity. Even, should the court decide to accept copies of the certificate of conformity in lieu of the original, defendant’s failure to provide copies of two separate certificates of conformity for each affidavit, renders the affidavits inadmissible as a matter of law.

Based on the foregoing, defendant failed to establish its entitlement to summary judgement by admissible evidence. Defendant’s motion for summary judgement is therefore denied.

Dated: November 21, 2018