Eric Turkewitz at New York Personal Injury Law Blog lays out in a post he calls “To Tell the Truth: Which Doctor’s Signature is the Real One?” some evidence that whatever is happening on the defense side of personal injury medical examinations, it smells just as bad as any fraud being perpetrated by a scammer under indictment.
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.
This goes to one of the bedrock assumptions that underlie law, that a signature made “under penalty of perjury” actually means something. Judges buy into it. Lawyers buy into it. The law buys into it. Once a signed document shows up in court, we all fawn over it as if it’s real. If it’s not, then the fabric of litigation begins to unravel. More to the point, then it can constitute the crime of perjury. You know crimes, those things that are against the law, worthy of prosecution and in many instances, prison?
Is there an exemption from crime by doctors? Is there a special dispensation for doctors when they’re being paid by insurance companies to opine that the guy hit by a Mack truck with two severed legs barely suffered a sprain?
Eric puts together four reports from Dr. Tuvia. Does anything look awry here?
As Eric puts it:
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?
If these were mortgages and some bank lost twelve bucks, chances are particularly good that some prosecutor somewhere would be preparing his press release to announce an indictment. So are they investigating the fact that these reports, executed under penalty of perjury, are being used by courts to determine whether people who claim damages have been injured or are fakers? Somebody is a faker here, but it’s not the injured party.
People in the personal injury defense biz would likely slough this off, saying that physicians are very busy, very important people, whose time is far too valuable to sign their own name to reports whose validity is accepted because they are made under penalty of perjury. Seriously? The half-second it takes to sign is more than these very important docs can handle?
But far, far more importantly, if they can’t be bothered to sign their own reports, do they read them? Do they even write them? They don’t get paid extra for making sure the report they dictated (or pulled out of their library of possible reports concluding that the party is healthy as a horse) is right on the money. After all, they can only give five minutes, tops, to the actual examination. What do you expect of these poor guys?
To see four reports with four obviously different signatures, all in the name of one physician, is to put the lie to physical examination, and by extension, to the merit of the defense denying people who were injured just compensation. And if that’s the case, then it’s every bit the scam as if it was some hustler on the street.
As Eric properly notes, if there is pervasive fraud on the med exam side of personal injury defense, then it fundamentally undermines the integrity of the legal system and demands some very serious investigations and some very serious remedies. That this involves docs having others sign their names to reports of unknown accuracy or origin “under penalty of perjury” is ripe for prosecution.
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?
This is our legal system, for better or worse, and if what these signatures suggest is happening is indeed happening, we better all give a damn because if it’s not cleaned up now, it will still be dirty when it’s your turn to need it.