To Tell the Truth: Which Doctor’s Signature is the Real One?
I thought I was done, for the time being, ripping scabs off the lacerations and lesions of New York’s medical-legal evaluation industry. Boy was I wrong.
Over the transom this week sails medical reports allegedly signed under oath by one Joseph Tuvia, M.D., who’s been doing medical-legal reviews of radiology films since about 1996. He was reviewing, back then, a thousand films a year, and was doing 95% of it for the defense.
As you might guess from the title of this post, the questions today revolve again around potential perjury, not from the witness stand but by signing medical-legal reports under penalty of perjury. Or, perhaps, by having others sign his name.
But which of these four signatures is the real Dr. Tuvia? Do any of them look even remotely the same as the other?
This looks, to my eye, like some sick version of the old To Tell the Truth, where celebrities asked questions to a panel of three contestants and only one person was allowed to be truthful. It ran for a remarkable 25 years. But those folks were doing it for the laughs, and the imposters certainly weren’t doing it under penalty of perjury.
The declarations you see here are signed pursuant to CPLR 2106, which allows doctors to sign unsworn affirmations as opposed to affidavits. Doctors, I guess, were deemed trustworthy enough to do this. And most of them are.
But who, in this case, is actually signing under penalty of perjury? Do any of those signatures belong to Dr. Tuvia? Do they belong to someone on the support staff? Do they belong to a broker funneling business to the medical practice on behalf of the insurance company?
Is anyone changing the report after it’s dictated? Would Dr. Tuvia even know?
Is anyone laughing about this?
I attempted to reach Dr. Tuvia but was unsuccessful. I am open to publishing a response if he calls back.
I’ve bitched and moaned a lot about the sorry state of New York’s current medical-legal “system,” where brokers pay doctors chump change to do evaluations on a big volume basis, and the results are quickie 5-minute exams. The doctor gets paid and moves on to the next one. The claimants that might have their economic futures affected are stunned at what happened, their legal rights potentially altered forever.
Questions arise, however, not only with those that do the exams but those that are unseen by the claimant. These doctors simply review records and films and then happily testify about the “results.”
Apparently some are laughing at this show. It’s the insurance companies, and they get to laugh all the way to the bank as they limit their payouts. The defense doctors playing this game know who is paying the bill and want the repeat business that comes with a happy client. The insurance companies use the reports — claiming the orthopedic injury is degenerative, or pre-existing, or non-existing, or fully recovered – to coerce meager settlements.
The New York Times covered this several years ago in an exposé about phony Workers’ Compensation evaluations and what happens with the bogus results: “The examiners’ opinions can empower an insurer to slash benefits, withhold medical treatment or stall a case.”
Then the insurance companies use the same phony data to run to the Legislature and scream about all the insurance fraud. Is that a laugh riot or what?
Will the District Attorneys ever investigate? Will the Attorney General? Will the U.S. Attorney? How about the Insurance Frauds Bureau at the Department of Financial Services where Benjamin M. Lawsky is the Superintendent?? Or is it only individuals that get investigated while insurance companies get a free pass?
Yeah, I keep dreaming about this stuff, hoping someone in the media will wake up when they realize the scope of the issue, that someone will realize how many tens of millions or hundreds of millions are at stake, hoping that one day we will see a little more integrity in the system. Hoping that someone, somewhere, will pick up this drum and start banging on it.
Hello? Is this thing on? Is anyone out there listening? Does anyone give a damn?
And will the real Dr. Joseph Tuvia, please stand up?
(Hat tip on the documents to one of my brethren at the New York personal injury bar, Jeffrey Levine.)
Update: Three days after this post, Dr. Tuvia took the stand in an unrelated case and was confronted with the signatures:
Part 7: Doctor Testifies That Six Different Signatures Are All His (8/5/13)