October 29, 2007

Ray Presutto, L.M.T., P.C. v Travelers Ins. Co. (2007 NY Slip Op 52095(U))


The court considered two actions to recover first-party no-fault benefits in which defendant Travelers Insurance Company ("Travelers") made motions for summary judgment to dismiss the complaints. The issue at hand was whether the plaintiff, Ray Presutto, had provided medical treatment that was medically necessary to the injured party, Miguel A. Villatoro, and therefore entitled to receive benefits from Travelers. The court held that, based on an orthopedic evaluation, the defendant demonstrated that the services rendered were not medically necessary. In response, the plaintiff's submission was deemed conclusory and insufficient as proof to create a triable issue of fact requiring a trial. As a result, both of defendant's motions for summary judgment to dismiss the complaints were granted.

Reported in New York Official Reports at Ray Presutto, L.M.T., P.C. v Travelers Ins. Co. (2007 NY Slip Op 52095(U))

Ray Presutto, L.M.T., P.C. v Travelers Ins. Co. (2007 NY Slip Op 52095(U)) [*1]
Ray Presutto, L.M.T., P.C. v Travelers Ins. Co.
2007 NY Slip Op 52095(U) [17 Misc 3d 1121(A)]
Decided on October 29, 2007
Civil Court Of The City Of New York, New York County
Hagler, J.
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This opinion is uncorrected and will not be published in the printed Official Reports.
Decided on October 29, 2007

Civil Court of the City of New York, New York County

Ray Presutto, L.M.T., P.C. as assignee of Miguel a Villatoro, Plaintiff,


Travelers Insurance Company, Defendant.

74577 CVN 2006

Plaintiff represented by: Baker, Sanders, Barshay, Grossman, Fass, Muhlstock & Neuwirth, by Shayna E. Sacks, Esq., 150 Herricks Road, Mineola, NY 11501, Tel: 516-741-4799.

Defendant represented by: Law Offices of Karen C. Dodson, by Jerry Marti, Esq., 485 Lexington Avenue, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10017, Tel: 917-778-6509.

Shlomo S. Hagler, J.

In these two actions to recover first-party no-fault benefits, defendant Travelers Insurance Company (“Travelers” or “defendant”) makes two virtually identical motions for orders pursuant to CPLR § 3212 granting it summary judgment dismissing the complaints. Plaintiff Ray Presutto, L.M.T., P.C. (“Presutto” or “plaintiff”) opposes the motions. Both motions are consolidated herein for disposition.


Miguel A. Villatoro (“Villatoro” or “assignor”) allegedly suffered personal injuries as a result of a motor vehicle accident on September 2, 2002. Villatoro allegedly assigned to Presutto his right to recover benefits from Travelers for health care services rendered to him. Presutto allegedly provided treatment to Villatoro for the periods of May 1, 2003 through May 28, 2003 ($61.60), May 27, 2003 through June 12, 2003 ($61.60), and June 28, 2003 through July 3, 2002 ($61.60).

Presutto allegedly mailed Travelers claim forms or bills in the aggregated amount of $184.80. At Travelers’ request, on January 29, 2003, Dr. Lawrence B. Miller, D.O., a board certified orthopedic surgeon, conducted an Independent Medical Examination (IME”) of Villatoro. Dr. Miller conducted various objective tests on Villatoro and concluded in his affirmed report dated January 29, 2003, that “orthopedic treatment is not indicated or warranted at this time, including physiotherapy or any other type of rehabilitative therapy/treatment. Furthermore, diagnostic testing, [*2]surgical intervention , household help, durable medical equipment or special transportation services are not medically necessary.” (Exhibit “C” to the Motions.) On August 18, 2003, Travelers denied all claims based on Dr. Miller’s IME and report dated January 29, 2003. (Exhibit “D” to the Motions.)

As a result of defendant failing to pay first-part no-fault benefits, plaintiff commenced these two actions by service and filing of a summons and complaint. (Exhibit”A” to the Motions.) Defendant interposed answers to the complaints. (Exhibit “A” to the Motions.)

Summary Judgment

The movant has the initial burden of proving entitlement to summary judgment. Winegrad v N.Y.U. Medical Center, 64 NY2d 851, 487 NYS2d 316 (1985). Once such proof has been offered , in order to defend the summary judgment motion, the opposing party must “show facts sufficient to require a trial of any issue of fact.” CPLR § 3212; Zuckerman v City of New York, 49 NY2d 557, 427 NYS2d 595 (1980); Friends of Animals v Associated Fur Mfrs., 46 NY2d 1065, 416 NYS2d 790 (1970); Friedman v Chemical Construction Corp., 43 NY2d 260, 401 NYS2d 176 (1977); and Spearmon v Times Square Stores Corp., 96 AD2d 552, 465 NYS2d 230 (2d Dept 1983). “It is incumbent upon a [party] who opposes a motion for summary judgment to assemble, lay bare and reveal his proofs, in order to show that the matters set up in [its pleading] are real and are capable of being established upon a trial.” Spearmon v Times Square Stores Corp., 96 AD2d at 553, 465 NYS2d at 232 (quoting DiSabato v Soffes, 9 AD2d 297, 301, 193 NYS2d 184, 189 [1st Dept 1959]). If the opposing party fails to submit evidentiary facts to controvert the facts set forth in the movant’s papers, the movant’s facts may be deemed admitted and summary judgment granted since no triable issue of fact exists. Kuehne & Nagel, Inc. F. W. Baiden, 36 NY2d 539, 369 NYS2d 667 (1975).

Proof of Mailing

There are three distinct methods to demonstrate proof of mailing. The first and simplest method is to provide an affidavit from an individual with personal knowledge of the actual mailing. The second is where an acknowledgment by the adverse party that it received the subject document serves as an admission. A.B. Medical Services a/a/o German v New York Central Mutual Fire Ins. Co., 3 Misc 3d 136(A), 787 NYS2d 675(Table) (App Term, 2d & 11th Jud Dists 2004); Fair Price Medical Supply Corp. a/a/o Graham v Elrac Inc., 12 Misc 3d 119, 820 NYS2d 679 (App Term, 2d & 11th Jud Dists 2006). The third and most common method is where the party provides proof of a standard office procedure, which ensures that documents are properly addressed and mailed. Pardo v Central Cooperative Insurance Company, 223 AD2d 832, 636 NYS2d 184 (3d Dept 1996). The first and second methods are straight-forward. However, the third method is vexing as there is a dearth of authority that addresses the specific requirements to adequately set forth a standard office practice and procedure.

The courts discuss the sufficiency of proof of mailing in several contexts. These include cancellation notices sent by insurers to insureds, and denials of claims or requests for verification by insurers to healthcare providers. The standard of proof necessary to establish that a proper mailing was executed appears to be the same for each of these circumstances. See, e.g., Contemp. Med. Diag. & Treatment, P.C., a/a/o Boone and Villafane v Government Employees Ins. Co., 6 Misc 3d 137(A), 899 NYS2d 344 (App Term, 2d & 11th Jud Dists 2005) (holding that standard of proof [*3]for mailing of verification requests are the same as for denial of claims, as per Hospital for Joint Diseases v Nationwide Mutual Ins. Co., 284 AD2d 374, 726 NYS2d 443 [2d Dept 2001], and insurance cancellation notices, as per Residential Holding Corp. v Scottsdale Ins. Co., 286 AD2d 679, 729 NYS2d 776 [2d Dept 2001]). “Generally, proof of proper mailing gives rise to a presumption that the item was received by the addressee.” Residential Holding Corp., 286 AD2d at 680, 729 NYS2d at 778. However, “in order for the presumption [of mailing] to arise, office practice must be geared so as to ensure the likelihood that a notice . . . is always properly addressed and mailed.” Nassau Ins. Co. v. Murray, 46 NY2d 828, 830, 414 NYS2d 117, 118 (1978).

To establish proof of mailing, an affidavit should detail standard office policies and procedures regarding the processing of claims and it must also contain a statement of the affiant’s personal knowledge that those policies and procedures have been followed in the instant case. See Contemp. Med. Diag. & Treatment, P.C., a/a/o Boone and Villafane v Government Employees Ins. Co., supra . However, in Delta Diagnostic Radiology, P.C. a/a/o Philogene v Chubb Group of Ins., 17 Misc 3d 16, 18 (App Term 2d & 11th Jud Dists, 2007), the Appellate Term clarified its prior ruling in Contemp. Med. Diag. & Treatment, P.C., supra , as follows:

We note that our prior holding in Contemp. Med. Diag. & Treatment, P.C. v. Government Empls. Ins. Co., 6 Misc 3d 137(A), 2005 NY Slip Op. 50254[U], 2005 WL 494360 [App. Term, 2d & 11th Jud. Dists.] should not be interpreted as requiring that an affidavit of mailing must state either that it was the affiant’s duty to ensure compliance with the insurer’s standard office practice or procedure with regard to mailing or that the affiant possessed personal knowledge of such compliance. Rather, as the Appellate Division has repeatedly noted, it is sufficient for the affiant to set forth that he or she possessed personal knowledge that the mailing occurred or describe the standard office practice or procedure used to ensure that items were properly addressed and mailed (see e.g. New York & Presbyt. Hosp. V. Allstate Ins. Co., 29 AD3d 547, 814 NYS2d, 687 [2006]; Residential Holding Corp. v. Scottsdale Ins. Co., 286 AD2d 679, 729 NYS2d 776, supra ; Hospital for Joint Diseases v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 284 AD2d 374, 726 N.Y.S. 443 [2001]).

(Emphasis Added).

Furthermore, there should be “testimony about office procedures relating to the delivery of mail to the post office, whether a practice existed of comparing the names on the mailing list with the names and addresses on the envelopes for accuracy, or whether anyone routinely checked that the total number of envelopes matched the number of names on the mailing list.” Matter of Lumbermens Mutual Casualty Co. (Collins), 135 AD2d 373, 375, 521 NYS2d 432, 434 (1st Dept 1987). By inference, the affiant should state the following necessary details to show office practice and procedure including: (1) whether anyone complied a list of intended recipients; (2) whether anyone checked that a corresponding envelope containing a verification request or a denial of claim form was properly addressed for each recipient; and (3) whether anyone established a procedure for affixing the appropriate postage and delivering the mail to the post office. The failure to properly allege some of the above details have resulted in courts holding that the showing was insufficient because the affiant’s affidavit was conclusory. New York and Presbyterian Hospital, a/a/o Udland v Allstate Ins. Co., 29 AD3d 547, 814 NYS2d 687 (2d Dept 2006).

While plaintiff challenges the adequacy of the proof of mailings, defendant’s director of [*4]operations at its centralized mail facility located in Norcross, Georgia (“Data Service Center”), Stephen H. Howard, has provided a sufficient description of Travelers’ standard office practice or procedure used to ensure the denials were properly addressed and mailed as detailed below:

7.For the Court’s present purposes, the operation commences when a TRAVELERS employee completes an NF-10 denial, a verification request, or a delay letter from his or her desk top computer terminal, and executes the send and archive option provided. That action will cause the document to be electronically transmitted to the Data Service Center in Norcross. Following that transmission, and on that date, the document is printed. It is then mailed as indicated below.

8.Any document electronically forwarded is batched, printed, and then mailed on the day after it is transmitted. In other words, documents which are electronically transmitted are accumulated, processed and produced in the same out put job. An out put job number is assigned and utilized for tracking purposes, as further described hereafter.

9.Once transmitted, the documents are electronically batched and printed. When the documents are printed, they contain encoded information which identifies the particular batch they were processed in. The documents are electronically counted so that the numbers can be justified against the expected number of documents which are to be contained in any particular batch. When the numbers are reconciled, a notation is made on a tracking sheet for the batch. This tracking sheet is utilized at each stage of the mailing process, further described below, so as to ensure that the mailing, in fact, occurs.

10.Once printed and batched, the documents are placed into a machine designed to fold the documents and insert them into a window envelope where the address of the recipient is shown. The envelope is sealed, completing this part of the process. The machine counts the number of documents and envelopes processed. When the batch has been completed, the actual number is justified against the expected number, and the tracking sheet is documented. The control therefore establishes that all mail in a particular batch has gone through this step in the process. As a further control, a visual inspection is performed to ensure that the address of the recipient appears visible in the envelope window.

11.Once the above step is completed, the batch is brought to another machine. This machine weighs the envelope and places the appropriate amount of postage in accordance with size and weight. This machine also performs an electrical count of the items to be mailed, and the number is justified, against the expected count. The tracking sheet is duly noted for that batch of mail.

12.The mailings in any particular batch are then brought to a sorting machine. The sorting machine separates the individual envelopes in accordance with U.S. Postal guidelines, based upon zip code, for the purposes of facilitating proper and efficient mailings. The pieces going through this aspect of the process are again counted for the purposes of a final justification of the numbers. The sorted and justified mail is then placed into sealed containers and then placed into U.S. Postal Services designated containers. The containers are then delivered to a secure loading [*5]facility where they are picked up by U.S. Postal employees.

13.The final sorting area described above, as well as all other stations, are visually inspected throughout the day to be certain that no mail escaped the vigorous justification processes.

14.The Court is further advised that if at any point during the above described justification processes there is an indication of a missing piece of mail, the process is traced backward until the individual piece of mail is found. In the event a missing piece of mail is not found, an investigation takes place which includes a review of each piece of mail in the entire batch to determine if the particular missing mail can be identified, reprinted, and the batch then processed to completion. In the event identification of the missing piece of mail cannot be made with certainty, the entire batch will be reprinted and reprocessed in accordance with the procedures previously described.

15.Given the above, I can state with a reasonable degree of certainty that the documents described in the accompanying affidavit of Kelly A. Stotz, which had been mailed through the Norcross Data Service Center, were in fact processed in accordance with the procedures described above, and mailed to the identified recipient on the day after the date which appears on the denial and/or delay later.

(Affidavit of Stephen Howard in support of the Motions, sworn to on July 12, 2001, at ¶¶ 7-15).

Medical Necessity

Courts have held that plaintiffs need not demonstrate medical necessity as part of their prima facie case. Dermatossian v New York City Transit Authority, 67 NY2d 219, 224, 501 NYS2d 784, 787 (1986) (“A claimant to receive payment need only file a proof of claim’ . . . and the insurers are obligated to honor it promptly or suffer the statutory penalties . . .”); A.B. Medical Services PPLC a/a/o Sokol v Geico Ins., 2 Misc 3d 26, 27, 773 NYS2d 773, 774 (App Term 2d Dept 2003) (“We have rejected arguments that no-fault benefits claimant is obligated to prove the treatment’s medical necessity, at the claim stage or in support of its motion for summary judgment in a subsequent action on the claim . . .” [citations omitted]). The insurer may raise the defense that a claimed procedure was not medically necessary with a timely denial pursuant to the 30-day rule. Presbyterian Hospital in the City of New York v Maryland Casualty Co., 90 NY2d 274, 282, 660 NYS2d 536, 539-540 (1997). If there is an untimely disclaimer or denial in derogation of the 30-day rule, the insurer’s lack of medical necessity defense is precluded. Id.; Amaze Medical Supply Inc. a/a/o Darlington v Allstate Ins. Co., 2 Misc 3d 134(A), 784 NYS2d 918 (Table) (App Term 2d & 11th Jud Dists 2004).

Furthermore, in support of, or in opposition to, a summary judgment motion or at trial, the defense that the claim was not medically necessary must be supported by sufficient factual evidence or proof and it cannot simply be conclusory. Amaze Medical Supply Inc. a/a/o Bermudez v Eagle Ins. Co., 2 Misc 3d 128(A), 784 NYS2d 918 (Table) (App Term 2d & 11th Jud Dists, December 24, 2003). For instance, a recent Appellate Term decision citing Amaze Medical Supply Inc. a/a/o Bermudez v Eagle Ins. Co., held that where the defendant’s peer review report was sufficient to establish that the services were not medically necessary and the plaintiff failed to come forward with [*6]proof creating an issue of fact requiring a trial, the defendant was entitled to summary judgment dismissing the complaint. Boai Zhong Yi Acupuncture Services, P.C. a/a/o Pistsov v Progressive Casualty Ins. Co., NYLJ, June 6, 2007, p. 30, col. 2 (App Term 2d & 11th Jud Dists). See also Alvarez v Prospect Hospital, 68 NY2d 320, 508 NYS2d 923 (1986).

In this case, Dr. Miller’s orthopedic evaluation and affirmed peer review report on January 29, 2003, based on objective testing, were sufficient to demonstrate that plaintiff’s services rendered to Villatoro were not medically necessary. In response to Dr. Miller’s specifically detailed affirmed peer review report, plaintiff merely submits a terse affidavit from Ray Presutto, a licensed massage therapist, averring that “my office rendered reasonable and necessary medical services to plaintiff’s assignor(s) that were casually related and resulting from said accident.” (Affidavit of Ray Presutto in opposition to the Motions, sworn to on September 18, 2007.) This allegation is conclusory and insufficient as proof in admissible form to create a triable issue of fact requiring a trial as per Boai Zhong Yi Acupuncture Services, P.C. v. Progressive Co., supra .


Both of defendant’s motions for summary judgment dismissing the complaints are granted. The clerk is directed to enter a judgment dismissing both complaints.

The foregoing constitutes the decision and order of this Court. Courtesy copies of this decision and order have been mailed to counsel for the parties.

Dated:New York, New York

October 29, 2007Hon. Shlomo S. Hagler, J.C.C.