Ventola Prevails in Independent Medical Examination Case

(March 23, 2015, Boston, MA) – Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green shareholder Mark J. Ventola prevailed before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in favor of the firm’s client, Examworks. The SJC weighed in on the state’s personal injury protection statute, addressing, independent medical examinations (IMEs) required of parties injured in auto accidents.

In Ortiz v. ExamWorks, the SJC held that IMEs may be conducted by health care professionals other than medical doctors. While the ruling may seem to simply endorse the longstanding insurance industry practice of using health care professionals other than MDs, the practice has recently been subject to a number of challenges, many brought as class action claims.

In the ExamWorks case, plaintiff Flor Ortiz alleged that defendant ExamWorks had violated the PIP statute by using a physical therapist, rather than a medical doctor, to conduct an IME when Ortiz had been receiving physical therapy after a car accident. The case was filed as a class action, in which Ortiz was attempting to represent others who had sustained injuries in motor vehicle accidents and undergone IMEs by physical therapists. The court rejected Ortiz’s claim and handed down a decision that used a common-sense approach to interpreting an imperfectly drafted statute.

There has been a significant uptick in litigation based on the PIP statute, with plaintiffs’ counsel looking for new ways to find fault with the manner in which insurers have traditionally handled these claims.ExamWorks should provide insurers with much needed clarity in this area, and will certainly help in the defense of a number of pending class actions brought against insurers.

Ventola is the Co-Chair of the firm’s Labor and Employment Law Practice Group. His focus is on employment and labor law, advising clients about the many aspects of the relationship between employer and employee. He provides advice and drafts agreements, policies, and protocols concerning hiring, trade secret, termination and separation, wage and hour, family and medical leave, employment discrimination, noncompetition, and other compliance issues. He also works with executives, negotiating and drafting employment agreements and compensation arrangements.

Ventola has been named a Massachusetts Super Lawyer since 2005.He serves as a Pretrial Conferencer in the joint Boston Municipal Court/Boston Bar Association program, is a member and former director of the Massachusetts Defense Lawyers Association, and a member of the Defense Research Institute. Ventola is also a member of the Massachusetts and Boston Bar Associations, and the Justinian Law Society, and is admitted to practice in both New Hampshire and Massachusetts.