November 5, 2009
Popular Imaging, P.C. v State Farm Ins. Co. (2009 NY Slip Op 52355(U))
Reported in New York Official Reports at Popular Imaging, P.C. v State Farm Ins. Co. (2009 NY Slip Op 52355(U))
|Popular Imaging, P.C. v State Farm Ins. Co.
|2009 NY Slip Op 52355(U) [25 Misc 3d 1230(A)]
|Decided on November 5, 2009
|Civil Court Of The City Of New York, Richmond County
|Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.
|This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.
Civil Court of the City of New York, Richmond County
Popular Imaging, P.C., Plaintiff,
State Farm Ins. Co., Defendant.
Counsel for Plaintiff:
2555 Richmond Avenue
Staten Island, New York 10314
Counsel for Defendant:
Diamond, Rutman, Costello & Si
291 Broadway, Suite 1100
New York, New York 10007
Katherine A. Levine, J.
This case calls upon the court to again examine whether an expert witness called by a defendant insurance company may rely upon medical records, prepared by an entity other than the plaintiff medical service provider, to formulate an opinion as to the medical necessity of services provided by the plaintiff.
Plaintiff Popular Imaging, P.C., (“plaintiff” or “Popular Imaging”), a medical service provider, seeks to recover r payments from defendant State Farm Insurance Co. (“defendant” or “State Farm”) for an MRI of the lumbar spine that it provided to the assignor Belquis Perez (“assignor” or “Perez”) as a result of the injuries that she sustained in an automobile accident. Defendant claims that the services were medically unnecessary. At the trial, the parties stipulated to plaintiff’s prima facie case and to defendant’s timely denial of the claim. Therefore, the only issue before the court was whether the medical services provided was medically necessary. [*2]
Dr .James B. Sarno (“Dr. Sarno”), who is a board certified neurosurgeon, prepared a peer review report and testified that the MRI performed on the assignor’s lumbar spine was medically unnecessary. At the outset of Dr. Sarno’s testimony, plaintiff refused to stipulate into evidence the peer review report prepared by and medical records reviewed by Dr. Sarno, contending that this court should not consider Dr. Sarno’s opinion since it was based upon medical records and reports that were not in evidence and for which no evidence was submitted as to their reliability. pursuant to the leading case of Wagman v. Bradshaw, 292 AD2d 84 ( 2d Dpt 2002). The court reserved decision on this objection to Dr. Sarno’s testimony.
Dr. Sarno’s testimony referred, for the most part, to the records and reports of Dr. Noel Fleisher, a board certified neurologist, who was the assignor’s treating physician and who referred the assignor to the plaintiff for an MRI. On August 23, 2002, Dr. Fleisher issued a report as to the results of his neurological consultation with the assignor some two weeks after the accident. He set forth as his impressions post concussion syndrome, traumatic cervical radiculopathy, traumatic lumbar radiculopathy, and myofacial pain syndrome. He indicated that he would consider a MRI scan and/or EMG studies. He listed the prognosis as guarded. Dr. Sarno also listed on his peer review the March 7, 2003 letter from plaintiff to Dr. Fleisher explaining the results of the MRI of the lumbar spine.The peer review report also lists a number of other reports, letters or diagnosis from other entities that were independent of both Dr. Fleisher and plaintiff (“independent reports’) such as New York Neurology, P.C.; Central Park Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, etc.
It is well settled that when records are prepared by a plaintiff medical service provider’s own principal, who treated the claimant and conducted the tests in questions, a plaintiff cannot viably argue that a defendant’s expert opinion “was not derived from a professional reliable source or to otherwise challenge the reliability of its own medical records and reports which were used as proof of its claim”. Andrew Carothers, M.D. (Martinez) v. GEICO, 2008 NY Slip Op 50456U, 18 Misc 3d 1147A (Civil Ct., Kings Co. 2008);. See, Cross Continental Medical v. Allstate, 13 Misc 3d 10 (App. Term 1st Dept. 2006).
In Velen Medical Supply Inc. V. Travelers Ins. Co., 20 Misc 3d 781 (Civil Ct., Queens Co. 2008), the court extended this ruling to permit testimony by a defendant’s expert based upon medical records and reports prepared by entities other than the plaintiff. The court first found that the records at issue fell within the fourth category of admissible opinion evidence set forth in the leading case of Wagman v. Bradshaw. 292 AD2d 84, 86-87 ( 2d Dept. 2002) : “material not in evidence provided the out- of-court material is accompanied by evidence establishing its reliability.” The court then cited to Hambsch v. N.Y.C. Transit Auth., 63 NY2d 723, 726 (1884) where the Court of Appeals held that an expert “may rely on out-of-court material if it is of a kind accepted in the profession as reliable in forming a professional opinion’ or if it comes from a witness subject to full cross examination.'”.
As to the Wagman issue, the Velen court found that in the context of no-fault, a plaintiff could not challenge the reliability of the assignors’ medical records and reports, even if those [*3]reports were not prepared by the plaintiff, if they were provided by plaintiff in response to defendant’s verification requests and were affirmatively relied upon by plaintiff as proof of claim. 20 Misc 3d at 784.See, Home Care Ortho. Med. Supply Inc., v. American MFRS. Mut. Ins. Co., 2007 NY Slip Op 50302[U] , 14 Misc 3d 139A (App. Term,1st Dept. 2007). Subsequently, Judge Sweeney extended this reasoning to the situation where the plaintiff’s assignor, rather than the plaintiff, provided the medical records to the defendant in response to a verification request. See, Primary Psychiatric Health, P.C., v. State Farm Mutual, 2007 NY Slip Op 50583U, 15 Misc 3d 1111A (Civil Ct., Kings Co. 2007). In fact, the Appellate Term has recently ruled that a defendant’s expert may not be precluded from testifying even though his opinion was based upon medical records prepared by physicians other than the plaintiff relating to treatment provided to the assignor. Bronx Expert Radiology v. NY Central Mutual, 2009 NY Slip Op 514575U, 2009 NY Misc. LEXIS 1796 ( App. Term, 1st Dept. 2009).
Here, the assignor’s physician, Dr. Fleisher , recommended that a MRI be performed; this is confirmed by Dr. Fleisher’s records. Dr. Sarno testified that in formulating an opinion he relied primarily upon Dr. Fleisher’s August 23, 2002 report of his neurological consultation with the assignor[FN1] and Dr. Fleisher’s EMG/NCV testing of September 13, 2002. Since plaintiff performed the MRI based upon the records and referral from the assignor’s treating physician, who apparently deemed the test to be medically necessary, and since plaintiff sent the results and explanation of the MRI back to Fleisher, plaintiff cannot now be heard to challenge the reliability and authenticity of Dr. Fleisher’s records.
As to the requirement that the material be generally accepted in the profession as reliable and there be evidence establishing its reliability, Dr. Sarno testified that these are the types of reports that a doctor would review to offer an opinion on the necessity of a lumbar MRI. Dr. Sarno uses other doctors’ reports in formulating a medical opinion about his own patients and that it is a generally accepted standard in the medical profession to form an opinion based in part on other doctors reports. He testified that he takes these reports at face value. Dr. Sarno’s testimony is consistent with set precedent that a physician’s office records are admissible as evidence at trial to the extent they are germane to diagnosis and treatment. Hazel Bruce Bishop v. Jafar, 302 AD2d 345 (2d Dept. 2003). Furthermore, an expert is entitled to rely upon facts set forth in medical records so long as he did not base his opinions upon the conclusions contained in the records. Meagan Murray v. Weisenfeld 37 AD3d 432, 434 (2d Dept. 2007); Bruce Bishop v. Jafar, supra. [*4]
Dr. Sarno then testified that it is generally accepted medical procedure to send a patient for a lumbar MRI where there is actual evidence of radiculopathy, irregularities in the neurological exam or failure to respond to conservative treatment. None of these factors were present in the documents reviewed by Dr. Sarno so as to justify the medical necessity of the lumbar MRI. On cross examination. Dr. Sarno reiterated that there were no actual neurological findings in the lower extremities to support a finding of radiculopathy He also testified that no EMG/NCV studies were even performed in the lumbar area of the body. Plaintiff presented no evidence or testimony in this matter, choosing instead to rely upon the aforementioned argument concerning the ability of Dr. Sarno to render an opinion and its cross examination of Dr. Sarno. Plaintiff has failed to refute the expert testimony and opinion and failed to produce evidence to rebut the lack of medical necessity for the lumbar MRI. As such, judgment is rendered in favor of defendant
Dated: November 5, 2009
KATHERINE A. LEVINE
JUDGE, CIVIL COURT
Footnote 1:(Since Dr. Sarno relied for the most part upon Dr. Fleisher’s records, it is not necessary for this court to render an opinion about the admissibility of the panoply of reports from other doctors that were reviewed by Dr. Sarno and which accompanied his peer review report. However, it appears that these reports were provided to Sarno by DND – a third party- who apparently received all the records from plaintiff as a result of defendant’s verification request (defendant’s 2). As such, in accordance with the aforementioned precedent, Dr. Sarno could also properly rely upon these records in formulating an opinion.