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New York High Court Limits Requirements for Early Medical Evidence

A recent ruling by New York’s highest court may make it somewhat easier for toxic tort plaintiffs to survive early motions practice in New York. The New York Court of Appeals ruled that lead-based paint plaintiffs were not required to have a medical professional causally connect their injuries to lead exposure in order to bring a claim. Hamilton v. Miller, Case Nos. 113 & 114 (N.Y. June 12, 2014). The decision still squarely places the burden of proof with plaintiffs, however, and may require plaintiffs to hire an expert during discovery to meet their burden. 

The New York Court of Appeals considered two cases, Hamilton v. Miller, Case No. 113, and Giles v. Yi, Case No. 114. Both Plaintiffs were adults who alleged that exposure to lead-based paint in their homes as children had caused a litany of physical, neurological, psychological, psychiatric, and developmental injuries. Although Plaintiffs were examined and diagnosed with at least some of the injuries as children, the medical reports did not cite lead exposure as a cause. 

Under New York trial court rules, tort plaintiffs are required upon request to provide copies of medical reports containing a list and description of the injuries, as well as a diagnosis and prognosis. Reasoning that such reports would be “prohibitively expensive for some plaintiffs,” the Court of Appeals held that Plaintiffs would only be required to produce reports from prior medical providers, rather than obtaining a new report solely for litigation purposes. Slip op. at 7. If, however, the prior report does not have the information required by the rules, Plaintiffs would either have to obtain a compliant report or seek relief from the court, explaining why they could not. The Court went on to hold that there was no requirement that the medical report establish a causal link between the injury and the alleged negligence; if needed, such causation could be addressed during expert discovery.   

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About this Author

Daniel M. Krainin, Environmental Attorney, Beveridge Diamond Law Firm
Principal

Daniel M. Krainin is a Principal in the New York office of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.  He was named to the 2011 and 2012 Super Lawyers list for the New York Metropolitan area, holds an AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, and serves as a Vice Chair of the ABA Environment Section's Environmental Litigation and Toxic Torts Committee.

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Mackenzie Schoonmaker, Environmental Lawyer, Beveridge & Diamond Law Firm
Associate

Mackenzie Schoonmaker focuses her practice on litigation and environmental regulatory matters.  Ms. Schoonmaker’s litigation practice includes representing clients in state and federal courts, as well as in data compensation arbitrations under the federal pesticide statute, FIFRA.  Most recently, Ms. Schoonmaker was part of the Firm’s trial team that secured a defense judgment in the District of Columbia Superior Court after a three week trial on tort claims alleging the client supplied corrosive water to apartment buildings.

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Nicole Weinstein, environment, litigation, insurance attorney, Beveridge diamond
Associate

Nicole B. Weinstein focuses her practice on environmental litigation and regulatory matters, as well as insurance recovery. Prior to joining the Firm, Ms. Weinstein practiced insurance coverage with a national law firm and served as a law clerk to the Honorable Catherine M. Langlois, now retired, in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Morris and Sussex County, General Equity Division.  After her clerkship, Ms. Weinstein earned an LL.M. in environmental law from Pace University, during which time she interned with the Environmental Protection Agency, in the New York/Caribbean Superfund...

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