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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.   

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume IV, Number 216


About this Author

Daniel M. Krainin Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond New York, NY

Dan deploys more than two decades of environmental litigation experience to resolve clients’ legal and business challenges.

Primarily focused on environmental and toxic tort litigation, Dan helps clients successfully resolve groundwater contamination, hazardous waste site remediation, natural resource damages, permit defense and product-related matters. He enjoys using his skills as a litigator to help clients solve environmental problems.

Among his many wins, Dan successfully led a team that defeated an emergency challenge to a permit that Dan’s client needed to continue its...

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Mackenzie S. Schoonmaker Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond New York, NY

Mackenzie’s practice includes both litigation and regulatory matters arising under FIFRA, the Clean Water Act, and related environmental laws.

She is passionate about conserving air, water, wildlife, and land for future generations, and enjoys helping clients navigate and enforce the detailed framework of environmental law because she believes compliance is key to preventing adverse impacts to the environment.

Mackenzie is a co-chair of Beveridge & Diamond’s Industrial Hemp & Cannabis industry team. She advises clients, and regularly writes and presents, on federal and state environmental regulations impacting this thriving industry. 

Under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), Mackenzie represents pesticide companies in data compensation arbitrations, focusing on defending the rights of data owners against follow-on registrants of pesticides. She has also worked extensively with task forces comprised of national and multinational companies of all sizes that operate as joint ventures or limited liability companies to generate data and other information to meet government requirements under FIFRA.

Among the wide range of issues under the Clean Water Act that Mackenzie has handled are assisting companies with responses to Clean Water Act Section 308 information requests and Clean Water Act Section 404 compensatory mitigation requirements.

Mackenzie also defends public utilities against toxic tort claims. She was part of the team that obtained a defense judgment after a three-week trial regarding claims alleging that the client supplied corrosive water to apartment buildings. The case, Cormier v. D.C. WASA, 2011 D.C. Super. Lexis 7, 84 A.3d 492 (2013), was successfully upheld on appeal.

Nicole B. Weinstein Insurance Recovery & Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond New York, NY

Nicole B. Weinstein helps clients minimize and eliminate liability for contaminated sites in litigation, and to recover insurance proceeds across industries.

Nicole's practice focuses on insurance recovery and environmental litigation. She excels at identifying avenues of defense and coverage, and in distilling complicated issues into understandable terms.

Nicole has been interested in environmental matters for as long as she can remember, and has always enjoyed thinking through complex challenges. She planned to become an environmental lawyer as a student, and after...