July 2nd, 2020

July 2nd: A Day to Celebrate Independence

John Trumbull’s famous painting of the Declaration’s presentation hangs today in the Capitol Rotunda. It is owned by the citizenry of the United States.

Each year I’ve used July 2nd as jury celebration day, as this is the day that the Continental Congress voted to liberate the Colonies from the Crown.  It was signed two days later, and the date of signing (not voting) is memorialized on our Declaration of Independence.

John Adams thought that this was the day that would be “solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shows, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

I see no compelling reason to re-invent the wheel and re-write  posts from years gone by about why the day is so important, for juries and otherwise. Here are a few of the pieces:

Power to the People (A Declaration of Independence) 

Taking the Oath

July 2nd: A Day to Declare Independence (And Celebrate Juries)

United States of America Declares Its Independence (Jury Trials Are One Reason)

Have a safe holiday one and all, but please, please, please take a few moments to read one of the greatest legal documents ever written, which sets forth the reasons our founders felt compelled to revolt against King George…
————
IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

 

July 1st, 2020

Friends and Enemies

It’s become almost reflexive for many people these days, that if a person on one political team says one thing then you must oppose it if you’re on the other. But not just oppose them; demonize them.

It is, of course, a godawful strategy for many reasons, two of which I address here. One political and the other with the law.

As some know, there is a conservative group known as the Lincoln Project that has been skewering Donald Trump up, down and sideways for being ignorant, narcissistic, dishonest, sociopathic and, basically, not having a shred of human decency. They churn out new 60 second commercials on a daily basis.

Notice that I wrote conservative. They appreciate that Trump doesn’t support their conservative views of government, but rather, that he only cares for himself.

Thus, a traditional “enemy” of the left has an ally: The conservatives of the Lincoln Project. They are supporting Biden because the safety of the nation is more important to them than any particular political issue.

Once upon a time, it’s worth noting, many conservatives that support limited government used to support a woman’s right to choose. Because it was consistent with less restrictive government. That only changed during the Nixon years when it was identified as a wedge issue to appeal to cultural conservatives. You could drive a fleet of very large trucks through that divide between the two branches of the Republican party.

That same divide exist(ed) with marriage equality. The limited-government types were not always aligned with the conservative, religious right, “family” voters.

Things change.

When you see demonization in politics it’s for a reason; Those folks are trying to raise money to get (re)elected and generating anger and hatred is a great way to do it. And it turns out the vote.

But that doesn’t mean you should engage that way. Because it might be counterproductive to far greater goals. For the conservative of the Lincoln Project, it’s the very safety of our democracy and respect for the constitution.

If you’ve spent time demonizing one side, it may be difficult to wrap your arms around the fact that sometimes they are your allies. Or that they might change.

(And we see this often in foreign affairs, where hawks and doves don’t necessarily align with political left/right.)

Now we turn to a parallel in the law.

Keeping personal issues at arm’s length with legal issues serves the lawyer well, particularly in litigation. Because at some point you may find yourself on the same side of an issue. And you will need to talk.

The issue might be something big, like the parties both wanting to settle, or something small like needing an adjournment of a conference so that you can go see your child in her 4th grade play.

Demonization of the other folks doesn’t help your ultimate cause. Your ultimate cause is helping your client, because lawerying is about service, not scoring stupid points.

The Lincoln Project is a model of this. They are looking at the bigger picture.

And if Trump is sent to his political demise, as most of the country now desperately hopes, it is likely that many in the GOP that have been riding along with Trump will go with him.

There’s little doubt that many who now cheer on the Lincoln Project will, if Biden wins, likely oppose many of their positions later on. And that’s OK.

Perhaps, if that happens, a more mature political scene will emerge from the ashes. We will have a greater appreciation for the concept that if we disagree with each other 75% of the time, it means we agree and need each other 25% of the time. So demonizing isn’t helpful.

Hey, one can dream.

One of many commercials from the Lincoln Project: Watch it.

 

June 17th, 2020

NY Stacks Court System Commission with White Shoe Lawyers (Updated)

New York’s Chief Judge, Janet DiFiore

Dear Chief Justice DiFiore:

Seriously? You put together a commission to develop a comprehensive vision of the court system of the future, and stacked it with white shoe lawyers? People who don’t actually go to court on a daily or even weekly basis?

Your commission is “charged with examining the enhanced use of technology and online platforms, among other innovations, and making recommendations to improve the delivery and quality of justice services, facilitate access to justice and better equip the New York State court system to keep pace with society’s rapidly evolving changes.”

That concept is great. And long overdue.

But instead of putting on that commission many of the thousands of lawyers working in the trenches, it seems mostly filled with commercial “litigators” who rarely appear in the well.

If I represented WalMart I’d be delighted with your choices. If I represent the person injured when a stack of merchandise crashed down on her head, not so much.

Let’s review some of those firms on your list, shall we? Gibson Dunn. Sullivan & Cromwell. Paul Weiss. Davis Polk. Bracewell. And Greenberg Traurig has two. To the extent any of their lawyers appear in court on a routine basis, whose interests are they representing?

How many verdicts do you think these lawyers have taken in the last 10 years?

You know what’s missing, right? Maybe some criminal defense lawyers who ply the courthouses every day might have a view on “recommendations to improve the delivery and quality of justice services?” Perhaps their experiences of clients repeatedly leaving work for unnecessary conferences might be a wake-up call to some?

How about personal injury? Back in 2008, a lifetime ago it seems, I bitched and moaned in this space about the spectacular way we manage to waste time in court; Specifically, I pointed to the Brooklyn Compliance Part where I calculated we waste about $10 million in legal time every year. Out of just one courtroom.

Maybe a matrimonial lawyer or two to give their view from inside the courtroom well? Perhaps some landlord-tenant? And not from the landlord side.

Don’t you want a wide number of perspectives on the “fairness, efficiency and efficacy” of the system and how it impacts people forced through the courthouse doors?

Half of the commission, at least, should be people with deep experience inside the courthouses. And people who work on the consumer side of the law as opposed to big business. Not just one or two people.

I published, back in 2008, some suggestions (which I renewed March 13th after the virus upended our world) that might help to bring our courts out of its creaky and arthritic condition. Particularly with those “high volume” parts with which the personal injury bar has a sickening amount of experience.

It was a list that anyone who’d spent time in the court, and given it even a modicum of thought, could have come up with. And lord knows we’ve had time to think about it as we sit on those damn benches, sometimes for hours on end.

How many of the lawyers on that list can appreciate the significance of problems that they don’t experience? And to do so on behalf of clients who may need to move those cases, not stall them, as their lives have been upended?

How many of the lawyers on that list have had clients cry in their offices because their world has come apart?

I know that I take somewhat of a risk in calling you out by name. Should I be fortunate to argue before you, and this post somehow makes it to your inbox, you might remember me. And, perhaps, not so fondly.

But this is crazy. If you want to reform our court system — and I know that you do — you need to stock your commission with people that know what it’s like to sit in a room with 100 other lawyers cooling their heals waiting for their 30 seconds at the bench.

I beg, plead, beseech and implore you. Get people on that commission who represent the consumer side of the law, people who walk the halls of our courts on a daily basis.

My short list of ideas from 2008 follows — a list I created before fillible PDFs and online filing made these things easier still:

First: The court must create an electronic template for its compliance orders that the attorneys can use, with required dates for completion and a future conference. That is the easy part;

Second: Every Preliminary Conference should have a provision whereby the attorneys are required to have a conference call at least 20 days before the compliance conference so that they can use that template to create a stipulated order to complete outstanding discovery;

Third: All completed orders can be submitted via email to the court, with blanks left for future court dates and a place for the attorneys to note their availability or unavailability due to conflicts. The court then prints, signs, and files and the lawyers retrieve the order via eLaw.

Fourth: Any unresolved issues must be subject to a court conference call with one of the court attorneys. Scheduling is done by email with a specific time to call in;

Fifth: In the event of a real issue that has defied resolution, or an unreasonable or obstreperous lawyer is involved, a court conference is scheduled;

Sixth: Some lawyers don’t, ahem, get paid to move cases efficiently. They get paid to be unreasonable. Wasted time means more billable hours. The court has to start treating the directives in preliminary conference orders more seriously and be stricter with problematic firms as the judges do in the federal system. This will ultimately force lawyers to work things out, or risk the wrath of the court for being unreasonable or routinely ignoring orders.

Update: Incoming President of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, Ed Steinberg, has now been placed on the commission:

“I am grateful to Chief Judge DiFiore, Chief Administrative Judge Larry Marks and Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for New York City George Silver for this appointment. I am proud to join with this distinguished group of judges, lawyers like Hank Greenberg, academics and technology experts to ensure that the court of tomorrow adapts to better meet the needs of our clients. I am most excited to hear from the community on their needs in this new era,” said Mr. Steinberg.

 

June 3rd, 2020

Why Can’t New York Be Like Alabama?

If only New York was like Alabama. I can almost see your jaw drop and eyes pop.

But New York has a problem and Alabama has a solution. And we should be all over it.

The problem is bad faith by insurance companies, refusing to settle matters because no one holds their feet to the fire to act in good faith. And that causes a backlog in the courthouse. Under normal circumstances.

Those normal circumstances mean, for example, that if a driver has a $100K policy, and there are $400K in damages, the insurance carrier may simply string the case along.

Why not? What’s their downside? The plaintiff, after all, may be desperate and the longer the desperation goes on the better for the insurance company.

And second, if the carriers figure it will cost the plaintiff $20K to try the case, they see little reason to pony up a $100K policy. If a plaintiff fails to take $80K, for example, and spends $20K trying the case, they could “win” with a jury verdict but be worse off than the lower settlement. So they demand a gift.

And if you take a verdict in excess of the policy limit, you’re generally stuck with the policy plus a judgment to collect the rest. But that judgement is against someone that likely can’t pay (which is why they had a small policy to start with).

Last year I laid out the cockamamie way that New York handles bad faith. Briefly, you have to first spend all the money, then take an excess verdict and then get that person you just sued — who owes your client the balance of the funds — to hire you to sue his own carrier for bad faith. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t, maybe they vanish. And the second lawsuit will tack on a few more years.

Now add in the COVID-19 pandemic. Trials have stopped for months on end (and maybe longer). And a trial is the only way to pressure an insurance company. There is now a shit ton of financially strapped, unemployed people, and no pressure at all on the insurance companies to dispose of cases since no juries are being selected any time soon. The problem of an already-overloaded judicial system is now exacerbated.

Just the other day I wrote how a judge had to order virtual depositions go forward due to intransigence by the defense. The defendants tried to use the pandemic as a tactic to stall, stall, stall the case until a vaccine is available or the pandemic has otherwise abated. Delaying justice and thereby denying it.

Now we turn to Alabama. Like many states, Alabama has an actual bad faith statute. And judges are not amused when carriers play games. Because judges don’t want to see their dockets clogged with cases that can be resolved.

Enter, stage deep south, Circuit Judge Karen Hall of Madison County. I know nothing at all about Judge Hall or her politics, age, race, religion, favorite ball team or anything else. What I do know is that she was not amused at Allstate for playing games in her courtroom. And I know this because she gave an award of bad faith damages well in excess of what the plaintiff actually asked for. (Thank you Kevin Grennan for forwarding me this decision.)

Allstate, you may not be surprised to learn given its presence here in this post, did what The Good Hands People apparently likes to do — stall and make the plaintiff spend money because how dare they bring a lawsuit against it.

There was just a $75K underinsured policy in Harbin v. Stewart, so the plaintiff was proceeding against his own insurer for that underinsured coverage that he paid for. Judge Hall ordered them to mediation with all sides to have someone present with full authority to settle. This was, as Judge Hall noted, a “significant damages case” with over $234K in medical bills alone.

The plaintiff traveled to the mediation along with his wife and lawyer ready to talk. The Allstate adjuster decided to stay home. Worse, while defense counsel arrived, he had no authority to settle. He offered nothing. Nada. Bupkus. The judge was not amused at Allstate’s violation of her order.

So they went to trial. Allstate didn’t even contest liability. In other words, The Good Hands People knew they would have to pay something, there were $234K in medical bills after all, and it still offered zip-a-dee-doo-da.

The jury came back with $690K.

Now this is where New York’s legislature should take note, because some problems in Alabama (and elsewhere) are no different than here. Judge Hall noted that the rules were designed for the just, speedy an inexpensive determination of actions. That same theory, though the actual language may differ among states, permeates every courthouse and judicial system. In essence, don’t waste our time, or that of our citizens who must sit jury duty.

After that $690K verdict, plaintiff’s counsel asked for $5K in costs and $52K in legal fees in addition to the $75K policy.

Nope. Not as per Judge Hall. No way. She would not do that.

Two days ago she walloped them, instead, with a $620K sanction. In doing so she noted that Allstate was a repeat offender. And she needed some way to make its conduct stop.

The requested relief, the court wrote, was “inadequate to accomplish the dual purposes of addressing the burden placed on the Plaintiff and addressing the overarching effects of Allstate’s conduct upon the Courts of Alabama, civil litigants, witnesses, and Alabama citizens who must serve on juries every time Allstate behaves in this fashion.”

You can rest assured that Allstate will not try that trick in her courtroom again.

Now it’s New York’s turn. When will our Legislature give us a bad faith law with actual teeth? We are about to see the Mother of All Backlogs in our court due to the virus. It will be exacerbated by insurance company delays. And if/when we get to trial, injured New Yorkers are left looking at carriers offering 50-70 cents on the dollar in some cases, even when the liability is clear.

How will New York deal with the effects of deliberate insurance company delays upon the courts, civil litigants, witnesses, and New York citizens who must serve on juries every time an insurer behaves in this fashion?

Adding insult to injury, New York is likely to see a massive financial strain due to the virus. Albany may well be increasing taxes and decreasing services to balance the budget. There’s little question the justice system will take a further beating on top of what is going on now.

So dear Legislators, please finally pass a bad faith law. With real teeth. Let the judges start enforcing it.

You have the power to make the backlog disappear, stop bad faith and bring long-awaited justice to those that seek it. And help save the State some money in the process.

The case is here: Harbin v. Stewart

 

June 1st, 2020

New York Judge Orders Virtual Depositions Due to COVID-19 (Updated x2)

With New York’s courts shut down for almost everything but emergencies, litigation has mostly ground to a halt unless the parties agree to keep going. No trials and no conferences.

A great many lawyers, myself included, have steamed forward with virtual depositions. But what if one of the sides — the one that most benefits from delay — simply tells you to stuff it? They ain’t going forward.

Motion practice to force recalcitrant litigants forward has just started.

We have now, I believe, the first judicial opinion in the state on that — dealing specifically with objections to going forward due to COVID-19.

Last week, Justice Robert David Kalish, sitting in New York County, ordered the parties to proceed to depositions “by remote means” in a Labor Law matter. Count on this decision to be cited widely in the months to come.

Defendants had tried to stall the case, arguing that they were willing to go forward, but that “depositions should occur in the traditional, in-person format, after social distancing restrictions related to the current COVID-19 pandemic have been lifted.”

As the Court noted in rejecting the attempt to stall, “there is no prediction for when all of the pandemic restrictions will be lifted.”

There’s a risk to making flagrantly bad arguments, and that is a judge might call you out on it, and establish a precedent that you are not happy with. Such was the case here with counsel for defendant Time Warner Cable:

While no side claims that it lacks the ability to conduct these depositions by video — and, indeed, during a pre-motion Skype for Business conference, TWC’s counsel noted that he had recently conducted a six-hour deposition by remote means in another case — TWC’s counsel argues that the depositions of the Remote Witnesses should be taken in-person because he himself [and the witnesses] “do not feel comfortable participating in a deposition conducted by videoconference technology.” 

Ouch. Bad argument amplified by the court.

Defense counsel also tried to stall other discovery as well, saying that no trial can take place anyway due to The Virus.

But Justice Kalish was clear that litigants must adapt to this “new normal” as there is no end in sight for the pandemic:

This Court disagrees with TWC’s counsel. To delay discovery until a vaccine is available or the pandemic has otherwise abated would be unacceptable. It goes without saying that business as usual is no longer the normal. The legal profession and its clients are currently coming to grips with the “new normal” brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other things, this “new normal” means that it is no longer safe and practical for depositions to be taken in person, as was the default during the “old normal.” TWC’s counsel suggests that this case should simply be put on hold until the “old normal” returns.

While the Court did not use the phrase “justice delayed is justice denied” it was certainly there in its essence for all to see:

However, as in any case, there is always a concern that a witness may become unavailable to testify for any number of reasons, including illness or death. During a pandemic, this concern is stronger. Moreover, it remains uncertain how soon the “old normal” will return— if it ever does.

Finally, the court kicks defense counsel a bit by saying, if you really want to sit in the room with your client, go for it. But that doesn’t mean others must take that risk:

Although TWC’s counsel feels that he will be prejudiced by not being able to physically sit next to the Remote Witnesses during their depositions, this order does not prohibit him from doing so. To the extent that the law and social distancing guidance allow, TWC’s counsel (or a co-counsel of his choosing) may be in the same room sitting next to these Remote Witnesses while Plaintiff’s counsel appears by remote means.

There is precedent for doing depositions remotely, but it’s always been on a case by case basis based upon “undue hardship.” So, for example, if an individual was injured in New York and returned home to a foreign country, but could not return for deposition for visa reasons, a court would call that an “undue hardship.” People are not immune from their own negligence, after all, simply because they were “lucky” enough to hurt a foreigner.

But this decision takes the pandemic and uses it broadly. This scene is playing out all over the state, thousands of times over. To the extent it is cited and relied upon by others (as I think it will) it affects every case that is trying to move forward.

It should be noted that not all defendants have conducted themselves this way. Many depositions have gone forward with the agreement of counsel.

But those that see to use the pandemic to gain a litigation advantage are now on notice: If the rest of the judiciary follows Justice Kalish, it won’t end well.

The case is Johnson v. Time Warner Cable.

Update: Moments after publication a friend alerted me of a decision this morning on virtual depositions from Nassau county (Justice McCormack). In this real estate dispute (return of downpayment on a house) the matter of re-deposing the plaintiffs was briefed before the courts shut down. The judge ordered depositions to go forward and, obviously anticipating a coming issue with whether depositions should be done virtually, simply decided it before anyone could yelp:

The depositions shall take place via Skype, Zoom or other electronic means, unless all parties and counsel agree to face-to-face depositions with the appropriate social distancing. [emphasis in original]

The case is here: McDonald v. Pantony

Update #2: In Albany county, Justice Christopher P. Baker ordered on June 2, 2020 that the deposition of a doctor in a medical malpractice case must go forward remotely.

Interpreting the Executive Orders of Gov. Cuomo, which stated that a court may not compel “the personal attendance” of physicians from facilities that treat COVID-19, he wrote that this means they should be done remotely. In other words, the executive order was to halt the potential spread of the virus, not to delay lawsuits against doctors.

The doctor, of course, has every right to have his attorney physically present if the two so desire, but this does not mean that opposing counsel or the court reporter need to be in the same room.

The case is Melkonian v. Albany Medical Center.