In Hamilton v. Miller, --- N.E.3d ---, Nos. 113, 114, 2014 WL 2608461 (N.Y. June 12, 2014), the New York Court of Appeals held that plaintiffs were not required to produce medical reports establishing causation prior to medical examinations by defendants.
Plaintiffs in two cases consolidated for appeal brought personal injury actions against their respective former landlords seeking damages arising from childhood exposure to lead-based paint as a child. Each plaintiff filed a bill of particulars in which they listed several dozen injuries that they claimed were caused by the purported exposure. Although each of the plaintiffs disclosed certain medical records in the course of discovery, those records did not substantiate all of the alleged injuries, nor did they causally relate those injuries to lead exposure. Defendants noticed medical examinations and requested that plaintiffs produce, pursuant to 22 NYCRR 202.17(b)(1), medical reports establishing all of plaintiffs’ alleged injuries and linking those injuries to their purported cause. After plaintiffs refused to produce the requested reports, defendants moved to compel. In each case, the Supreme Court held that plaintiffs must provide medical evidence of each injury and the cause thereof, or otherwise be precluded from offering evidence of that injury at trial. The Appellate Division affirmed.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that plaintiffs cannot be required to produce, prior to medical examination by defendants, a medical report causally relating plaintiffs’ injuries to lead paint exposure or be precluded from offering proof of such injuries at trial. However, the court also held that the rule does require plaintiffs to provide comprehensive reports, detailing any injuries diagnosed or treated, from their treating and examining medical providers, regardless of whether such reports previously had been drafted. Therefore, while reports on causation are not required at that phase of the litigation, plaintiffs must have their medical providers draft reports setting forth any injuries or conditions as to which testimony will be offered at the trial.
While the Hamilton decision may limit defendants’ ability to obtain reports on causation from plaintiffs’ medical providers in the early stages of personal injury actions in New York, it does require plaintiffs to affirmatively obtain from their doctors reports that detail the injuries or conditions as to which testimony will be offered at trial. In addition, the Court of Appeals suggested an alternative route available to defendants who wish to challenge plaintiffs’ causation evidence early in a case – moving for expedited expert discovery. “Should plaintiffs fail to produce any evidence of causation” in response to such an order, then defendants “can move for and obtain summary judgment” at that point.