- Posts by William GibsonSenior Counsel
Litigation attorney Bill Gibson focuses his practice on the interplay between complex facts and complicated law. He works with clients and expert witnesses to craft compelling, accurate, and admissible expert testimony that will ...
Recently, a federal judge in New Jersey confirmed an arbitration award in favor of an insurer resulting from the independent dispute resolution (“IDR”) process created under the No Surprises Act. This is one of the first times an IDR award has been confirmed by the courts and demonstrates that the FAA’s presumption in favor of arbitration awards will apply to IDR determinations even without reasoned awards.
GPS, a medical practice in New Jersey, performed emergency plastic surgery on a patient in 2022. Following the procedure, GPS submitted a bill to Horizon, the patient’s ...
Finds that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services put its “thumb on the scale”
On Monday February 8, a judge in the Eastern District of Texas again rejected the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Independent Dispute Resolution (IDR) rules on the grounds that the Rules continued to “put a thumb on the scale” for the arbitrator’s reliance on the Qualified Payment Amount (QPA) contrary to the statutory language of the No Surprises Act.
On April 26, 2022 the Supreme Court of New Jersey heard arguments about whether New Jersey should retain the judicially created “new business rule”. Since 1936 the rule has held that in the context of calculating damages “prospective profits of a new business are considered too remote and speculative to meet the legal standard of reasonable certainty.” RSB Lab. Servs., Inc. v. BSI, Corp. This case is interesting for aggrieved business litigants as well as interested observers of the appellate process.
On September 30, 2021, the federal Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services issued “Requirements Related to Surprise Billing; Part II,” the second in a series of interim final regulations (the “Second NSA Rules”) implementing the No Surprises Act (“NSA”). This new federal law became effective for services on or after January 1, 2022.
Medical providers preparing to engage in arbitration with payors pursuant to the just-announced No Surprises Act dispute rules should be prepared to counter some tough tactics from payors. For health care providers, the first Interim Final Rule represents a reasonable solution against arbitrary rates for out-of-network services, but raises concerns that certain policies may result in a financial windfall for insurers at the expense of providers and consumers.
On July 1, 2021, the Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services issued “Requirements Related to ...
In July, we reported (here) on a Third Circuit decision that held an out-of-network provider’s direct claims against an insurer for breach of contract and promissory estoppel were not pre-empted by ERISA. That opinion was a significant win for healthcare providers. Recently, there has been another important win for out-of-network providers—this time from the Ninth Circuit.
In Beverly Oaks Physicians Surgical Ctr., LLC v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Illinois, 983 F.3d 435, 442 (9th Cir. 2020), an out-of-network surgical center sued Blue Cross for improperly refusing to ...
Congratulations. You’ve been sued in court in New Jersey. To make matters worse, the complaint is full of lies. Not distorted versions of the truth or someone’s interpretation of events that actually occurred, but outright false statements of fact. The kind that make you look bad in your personal and business communities. The kind that hurt your reputation and cause people to think twice about doing business with you or your company.
You are understandably upset and want to go on the offensive, but your lawyer tells you the playbook is empty. She explains that there is an “absolute ...
While businesses and their employees continue to operate in the “new frontier” of working-from-home during the COVID-19 pandemic and the gradual reopening of the economy, a serious risk continues to present itself: the threat of cybercrime. The increased use of remote access to work systems and related applications has made businesses a prime target for those unscrupulous individuals seeking to encroach on companies’ cyber-landscape. Flaws in VPNs, firewalls, and videoconferencing, for example, have exposed many companies’ electronic infrastructures to these incursions. Similarly, the at-home workforce has increasingly been subjected to social engineering attacks often cloaked as communications purporting to provide information about pandemic-related issues.
In addition to the technical measures necessary to confront these threats, businesses would be well-advised to ensure that their cyber insurance is up to date and responds to this challenging new environment. Such coverage may be found in a variety of insurance, including property policies, commercial crime bonds or in stand-alone cyber risk policies. Regardless of where it resides, cyber insurance typically provides coverage for data breaches, ransomware attacks and employee wrongdoing, and for loss of business income occasioned by covered occurrences.
While the jurisprudence related to these issues continues to develop, some recent cases provide insight into how courts may decide cyber coverage questions in the current environment.
Ransomware - Covered
Earlier this year the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland considered the issue of how first-party “computer coverage” responded to data loss resulting from a ransomware attack. In National Ink & Stitch, LLC v. State Auto Property & Casualty Ins. Co., No. SAG-18-2138, 2020 WL 374460 (D. Md. Jan. 23, 2020), the insured was an embroidery and screen printing business that stored business-related art, logos, designs and graphics software on a server that became compromised by a ransomware attack. Id. at *1. As a result, the insured needed to recreate stored data that it was unable to access because of the incursion. Id. Further, after the software was replaced and reinstalled by experts, there remained a likelihood that remnants of the virus lingered on the system, leaving the insured with the unpalatable choice of either “wiping” the entire system or purchasing a new server. Id.
The policy at issue responded to “direct physical loss of damage to Covered Property at the premises…caused by…any Covered Cause of Loss.” Id. “Covered Property” included electronic data processing, recordings or storage media such as film, tapes, disks, etc. in addition to data stored on such media. Id. at *1-2. Software was included as “covered property” in the policy. Id. at *1. The insurer denied the claim on the basis that the insured had not experienced direct physical loss or damage to its computer system to justify reimbursement of the cost of replacing the entire system. Id. at *2. That is, because the insured “only lost data and could still use its computer system,” the insurer took the position that there was no “direct physical loss” and, therefore, no coverage. Id.
In finding that the insured should be reimbursed for its losses, the court determined that the plain language of the policy “contemplates that data and software are covered and can experience ‘direct physical loss or damage’” Id. at *3. The court refused to credit the insurer’s argument that a loss of software and its related functionality was not a direct loss to tangible property simply because the insured could still use the system albeit in a diminished fashion. Id. Instead, relying on relevant case law, the court it recognized that the insured’s computer system, while still functional, had been rendered inefficient and its storage capability was damaged in a way that its data and software could not be retrieved. Id. at *4. Accordingly, the court ruled that the policy did not require the computer system to be completely unable to function in order to constitute covered “physical loss or damage”. Id. at *5.
In granting summary judgment in favor of the insured, the court viewed the system’s loss of use and reliability and impaired function to be consistent with the “physical loss or damage to” language in the policy. Id. This was so because “not only did [insured] sustain a loss of its data and software, but [it] is left with a slower system which appears to be harboring a dormant virus, and is unable to access a significant portion of software and stored data.” Id.
In an important win for healthcare providers, on July 17, 2020, the Third Circuit determined in a published opinion that an out-of-network provider’s direct claims against an insurer for breach of contract and promissory estoppel are not pre-empted by ERISA. In Surgery Ctr., P.A. v. Aetna Life Ins. Co. In an issue of first impression, the Third Circuit addressed the question of what remedies are available to an out-of-network provider when an insurer initially agrees to pay for the provision of out-of-network services, and then breaches that agreement.
This case arose because two patients—identified as J.L. and D.W.—required medical procedures that were not available in-network through Aetna. J.L. needed bilateral breast reconstruction surgery following a double mastectomy and D.W. required “facial reanimation surgery,” which the Third Circuit describes as “a niche procedure performed by only a handful of surgeons in the United States.” Neither J.L. nor DW had out-of-network coverage for these procedures. D.W.’s plan also contained an “anti-assignment” clause, which would have prevented D.W. from assigning his or her rights under the plan to the Plastic Surgery Center, P.A.
The Supreme Court of New Jersey unanimously held in Linda Cowley v. Virtua Health System (A-47-18) (081891) that the “common knowledge” exception of the Affidavit of Merit Statute applies only when a simple negligence standard is at issue, and does not apply when a specific standard of care must be evaluated. In this case involving if and how to reinsert a removed nasogastric tube, the Court reversed the judgement of the Appellate Division and dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint with prejudice because she failed to submit an affidavit of merit within the time required by the Affidavit of Merit Statute.
Enacted in 1995, the Affidavit of Merit Statute requires that plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases “provide each defendant with an affidavit of an appropriate licensed person that there exists a reasonable probability that the care, skill or knowledge exercised or exhibited in the treatment, practice or work that is the subject of the complaint, fell outside acceptable professional or occupational standards or treatment practices.” N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-27. The statute’s primary purpose “to require plaintiffs in malpractice cases to make a threshold showing that their claim is meritorious, in order that meritless lawsuits readily [can] be identified at an early stage of litigation.” Cornblatt v. Barow, 153 N.J. 218, 242 (1998). Failure to provide an affidavit or its legal equivalent is “deemed a failure to state a cause of action,” N.J.S.A. 2A:53A-29, requiring dismissal with prejudice.
An exception to this rule is the judicially-created “common knowledge” exception which provides that an expert is not needed to demonstrate that a defendant professional breached some duty of care “where the carelessness of the defendant is readily apparent to anyone of average intelligence.” Rosenberg v. Cahill, 99 N.J. 318, 325 (1985). In those exceptional circumstances, the “jurors’ common knowledge as lay persons is sufficient to enable them, using ordinary understanding and experience, to determine a defendant’s negligence without the benefit of the specialized knowledge of experts.” Hubbard v. Reed, 168 N.J. 387, 394 (2001). Thus, a plaintiff in a malpractice case is exempt, under the common knowledge exception, from compliance with the affidavit of merit requirement where it is apparent that “the issue of negligence is not related to technical matters peculiarly within the knowledge of [the licensed] practitioner.” Sanzari v. Rosenfeld, 34 N.J. 128, 142 (1961).
Imagine these scenarios:
- Your company cannot perform a contract because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A vendor informs you that she cannot provide your company with necessary goods because of supply chain issues caused by a governmental emergency declaration.
- A subcontractor cannot perform because its employees are self-quarantining.
These are not hypotheticals. Scenarios like these are playing out around the country. The real-world impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is colliding with contractual requirements, and there is new attention to the legal doctrines of “impossibility,” “frustration of purpose,” “impracticability, and “force majeure.”
What do they mean? In a nutshell, traditional contract law says that an unforeseeable event occurring after the contract was formed can excuse contract performance, and determining whether an event was unforeseeable will depend heavily on the specific facts and the language of the contract.
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