September 30, 2022

Parisien v Farmers Ins. (2022 NY Slip Op 22309)


The court considered the letters sent by Progressive and Farmers Insurance regarding coverage of the vehicle involved in the accident, as well as the denial of medical benefits to the assignor by Farmers. The main issue decided was whether the assignee of the injured person was entitled to reimbursement under Farmers Insurance's policy, given that the vehicle was being used for Uber ride sharing at the time of the accident, which was not covered under the policy. The court held that the assignee was not entitled to reimbursement under Farmers Insurance's policy due to the lack of coverage for the accident, and that there was no dispute or controversy between insurers that would require mandatory arbitration. The court granted defendant Farmers Insurance's motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case, denying plaintiff's cross motion for summary judgment.

Reported in New York Official Reports at Parisien v Farmers Ins. (2022 NY Slip Op 22309)

Parisien v Farmers Ins. (2022 NY Slip Op 22309)
Parisien v Farmers Ins.
2022 NY Slip Op 22309 [77 Misc 3d 220]
September 30, 2022
Stein, J.
Civil Court of the City of New York, Kings County
Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.
As corrected through Wednesday, December 7, 2022


Jules F. Parisien, as Assignee of Shaquasia Partlow, Plaintiff,
Farmers Insurance, Defendant.

Civil Court of the City of New York, Kings County, September 30, 2022


Law Offices of Buratti, Rothenberg & Burns for defendant.

Law Offices of Zara Javakov Esq., P.C. for plaintiff.

{**77 Misc 3d at 221} OPINION OF THE COURT

Saul Stein, J.

Defendant’s motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint is granted, and plaintiff’s cross motion for summary judgment is denied.

This action was brought for the recovery of no-fault benefits under New York State law. The underlying facts are not in dispute. Plaintiff is a provider of medical benefits and the assignee of Shaquasia Partlow, the passenger of a motor vehicle involved in an accident that occurred on May 6, 2019, in the State of Florida. On or about May 23, 2019, in response to a letter of representation from plaintiff’s attorney, nonparty Progressive Express Insurance Company sent a letter to plaintiff’s counsel which confirmed that Progressive had issued a policy for the vehicle and driver. The letter had a header which included a section entitled “Name of Insured,” and which listed Shaquasia Partlow. The letter stated, in bold type, “[T]here are no coverage issues at this time.” The letter also notified plaintiff’s counsel that the vehicle “may have additional insurance with Farmers” and provided a policy number.

Defendant Farmers Insurance also issued a policy covering the vehicle and was similarly informed of the accident. On June 21, 2019, Farmers sent Ms. Partlow a letter which informed her that she did not qualify for personal injury protection under Farmers’ policy for this accident.

Farmers’ letter noted that the vehicle was being used as an Uber ride sharing vehicle at [*2]the time of the accident.[FN1] As the letter further explained, Farmers’ policy was for personal, noncommercial use only. Under the Farmers policy express terms, insured persons did not include any person in the vehicle while the vehicle was engaged in a commercial ride sharing{**77 Misc 3d at 222} activity. The letter further advised that any claims for service should be directed to Ms. Partlow’s Uber claim or her personal health insurance carrier. The June 21, 2019 letter did not claim that payment of no-fault claims was the responsibility of Progressive or any other insurer.

On July 24, 2019, assignor sought medical benefits from plaintiff. Despite both aforementioned letters, on July 30, 2019, plaintiff sought payment for the services from Farmers. Farmers denied those claims by letter dated August 8, 2019, stating that plaintiff’s assignor was “not eligible for benefits under this policy.” Farmers gave no additional reason or explanation for the denial and did not claim that no-fault benefits were the responsibility of Progressive or any other insurer.

This action was commenced on or about August 26, 2019. On July 22, 2020, defendant filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the complaint on the basis that plaintiff’s assignor was not covered by defendant’s policy. On December 30, 2020, plaintiff filed a cross motion for summary judgment for the amount stated in the complaint, $846.69, plus statutory interest and attorneys’ fees, pursuant to CPLR 3212.

Defendant, in support of its own motion and in opposition to the cross motion, submitted the affidavit of its claims supervisor, Vincent D’Ugo, a certified copy of defendant’s policy at issue, and the correspondence from Progressive of May 23, 2019. Also attached as exhibits were Farmers’ June 21, 2019 letter to the assignor and the August 8, 2019 letter to plaintiff in which it had stated that its claims were not covered by its policy.

Defendant argued that plaintiff, as assignee of Ms. Partlow, was not entitled to reimbursement under defendant’s policy because the vehicle in the accident was being used as an Uber ride sharing vehicle at that time. As defendant’s coverage was solely for personal use and not commercial use of the vehicle, any persons injured or any property damaged were not covered, as the accident was not an insured incident under the policy.

Plaintiff, in its cross motion, argued that it had established its prima facie case by proving the submission of its claim to Farmers and Farmers’ nonpayment of that claim. In support, plaintiff submitted the affirmation of an employee familiar with the billing procedures used for this claim. Plaintiff also argued that it should also prevail on its cross motion because defendant, in its opposition to the cross motion, failed to submit sufficient evidence showing that defendant had timely denied that claim. Plaintiff did acknowledge receipt of the denial.{**77 Misc 3d at 223}

In opposition to defendant’s motion and in further support of its own cross motion, plaintiff cited 11 NYCRR 65-4.11 (a) (6), and argued that as the first insurer billed, Farmers was responsible to pay the claim submitted to it, and then arbitrate with Progressive the issue of who was responsible for coverage of the claim.

Insurance Law § 5106 (d) (1), which creates the obligation for the first-billed insurer to pay and then arbitrate, provides:

“[W]here there is reasonable belief more than one insurer would be the source of first [*3]party benefits, the insurers may agree among themselves, if there is a valid basis therefor, that one of them will accept and pay the claim initially. If there is no such agreement, then the first insurer to whom notice of claim is given shall be responsible for payment. Any such dispute shall be resolved in accordance with the arbitration procedures established pursuant to section five thousand one hundred five of this article and regulations as promulgated by the superintendent, and any insurer paying first-party benefits shall be reimbursed by other insurers for their proportionate share of the costs of the claim and the allocated expenses of processing the claim, in accordance with the provisions entitled ‘other coverage’ contained in regulation and the provisions entitled ‘other sources of first-party benefits’ contained in regulation.”

Insurance Law § 5105 (b) further states that “all disputes arising between insurers concerning their responsibility for the payment of first party benefits” shall be submitted to mandatory arbitration.

11 NYCRR 65-4.11 (a) (6) regulates the mandatory arbitration called for by the Insurance Law. However, it specifically states that “this section shall not apply to any claim for recovery rights to which an insurer in good faith asserts a defense of lack of coverage of an alleged covered person on any grounds.”

Farmers has established its defense of lack of coverage in this case. Plaintiff does not dispute that the vehicle in question was being used for a ride sharing service at the time of the accident. It is also not disputed that only insured persons (as defined in the Farmers policy) were covered and that a person injured while using the vehicle as a part of a commercial ride sharing program was not covered as an insured person. Indeed,{**77 Misc 3d at 224} in its papers, plaintiff does not advance any reason as to why Farmers was incorrect in disclaiming coverage, nor explain why Ms. Partlow should have been covered as an insured person. As such, the provisions of 11 NYCRR 65-4.11 (a) (6) do not apply under the regulation’s own terms, and the issue is not subject to mandatory arbitration (see e.g. RX Warehouse Pharm. Inc. v Erie Ins. Exch., 63 Misc 3d 1236[A], 2019 NY Slip Op 50905[U] [Civ Ct, Kings County 2019]). As coverage was not included for this accident under the terms of the policy, the lack of coverage denial was proper.

Further, the relevant statutes and regulations consistently provide that if there is a “dispute” or “controversy” between the insurers, the claims between said disputing insurers are subject to mandatory arbitration.[FN2] Similarly, Insurance Law § 5106 (d) (1) states that

“where there is reasonable belief more than one insurer would be the source of first party benefits, the insurers may agree among themselves, if there is a valid basis therefor, that one of them will accept and pay the claim initially. If there is no such agreement, then the first insurer to whom notice of claim is given shall be responsible for payment.”

In this case there were no disputes or controversies between insurance companies, nor was there any reasonable basis for submission to Farmers in July 2019. In May 2019, Progressive wrote that Ms. Partlow was an insured and there were no issues with coverage at this time. In June 2019, prior to plaintiff providing benefits, Farmers informed Ms. Partlow that they would not be providing coverage as the accident was not covered. Hence, the mandatory arbitration regulations for situations where there is a dispute and controversy are not applicable.


Plaintiff’s reliance on M.N. Dental Diagnostics, P.C. v Government Empls. Ins. Co. (81 AD3d 541 [1st Dept 2011]) is unavailing. In that case, the Appellate Division held that GEICO’s denial of coverage defense was invalid and the matter was subject to mandatory arbitration. However, in M.N. Dental Diagnostics the Court held that case involved an intercompany dispute, because the defendant had denied plaintiff’s claim on the stated ground that no-fault benefits were payable by another insurer (id.). By pointing to another insurer, the Court held that defendant had raised an issue as to which insurer{**77 Misc 3d at 225} was obligated to pay first-party benefits. Thus, M.N. Dental Diagnostics was a “controversy between insurers involving the responsibility or the obligation to pay first-party benefits,” which the regulation states is “not considered a coverage question.” (11 NYCRR 65-4.11 [a] [6].)

In contrast, here, defendant did not deny plaintiff’s claims on the grounds that another insurer, such as Progressive, was responsible. Rather, Farmers solely denied the claim on the basis that the accident was not covered under the terms of the Farmers policy, a claim supported by the evidence Farmers submitted in support of its motion. Under such circumstances, there is no “controversy between insurers” under 11 NYCRR 65-4.11 (a) (6) that would be subject to mandatory arbitration.

In fact, in the underlying Appellate Term’s decision in M.N. Dental Diagnostics, the court offers additional details:

“GEICO’s argument that its denial of benefits raised an issue of coverage because it was not ‘otherwise liable’ for the payment of first-party benefits (see 11 NYCRR 65-3.12 [b]) is unavailing, since it ignores the endorsements contained in its own insurance policy, which expressly provided Burgos with rental and substitute automobile coverage. Where, as here, more than one insurance policy provides coverage for a no-fault claim, the issue becomes one of priority of payment.” (M.N. Dental Diagnostics, P.C. v Government Empls. Ins. Co., 24 Misc 3d 43, 44-45 [App Term, 1st Dept 2009].)

Hence, in M.N. Dental Diagnostics, P.C., not only was there a dispute between insurers, there was also a valid basis for a reasonable belief that more than one insurer could be the source of first-party benefits, as GEICO had possibly provided the assignee with coverage. Thus, in that case there was a real question as to which insurance company was responsible, and as to the priority of payment. Here, in July 2019, by the time the services were provided, there was no question, nor a valid basis for a reasonable belief, that Farmers had coverage, nor was there a question of priority.

Finally, the Court of Appeals has discussed several factors when considering questions of whether a defense is in fact based on lack of coverage and related timeliness or notice issues. Guidance includes whether: (a) the claim would create coverage where none existed; (b) the asserted defense is more like a “normal” exception from coverage, or a lack of coverage{**77 Misc 3d at 226} in the first instance; and (c) the denial of liability based upon lack of coverage within the insurance agreement is distinguishable from disclaimer attempts based on a breach of a policy condition (see Fair Price Med. Supply Corp. v Travelers Indem. Co., 10 NY3d 556 [2008]; Hospital for Joint Diseases v Travelers Prop. Cas. Ins. Co., 9 NY3d 312 [2007]; Central Gen. Hosp. v Chubb Group of Ins. Cos., 90 NY2d 195 [1997]).

Here, there has been no argument presented that this was either a covered accident under the Farmers policy, or that the assignor was in fact covered by Farmers. Hence, requiring Farmers to make a payment would be creating coverage. In addition, prior to the services being sought, assignor’s counsel had notice that Progressive would provide coverage, and assignor had [*5]knowledge that Farmers would not. Accordingly, this court cannot impose coverage where none existed. It is therefore ordered that defendant’s motion for summary judgment is granted, and it is further ordered that plaintiff’s cross motion for summary judgment is denied, and it is further ordered that this matter is dismissed.


Footnote 1:Plaintiff’s opposition to defendant’s motion fails to rebut or even deny this, and correspondence defendant received from Uber in February of 2020 and annexed to its motion papers further confirms that the vehicle was engaged in a ride sharing activity at the time of the accident.

Footnote 2:See Insurance Law § 5105; 11 NYCRR 65-4.11 (a).