“Equitable Medical Monitoring” Cause of Action Rejected; Plaintiffs, Who Had No Signs of Cancer from Heavy Smoking, Were Not Entitled to Bring an Action to Cover the Costs of CT Scans to Periodically Check for Cancer
In a full-fledged opinion by Judge Pigott, with two dissenting judges, the Court of Appeals determined New York does not recognize a “medical monitoring” cause of action. The plaintiffs were all heavy smokers. None of the plaintiffs is currently sick. The lawsuit sought damages to pay for “medical monitoring” (low dose CT scans “LDCT”) as a way to ensure early diagnosis of cancer:
Plaintiffs do not claim to have suffered physical injury or damage to property. They assert, rather, that they are at an “increased risk” for developing lung cancer and would benefit from LDCT monitoring, which they claim would allow them to discover the existence of cancers at an earlier stage, leading to earlier treatment.
A threat of future harm is insufficient to impose liability against a defendant in a tort context … . The requirement that a plaintiff sustain physical harm before being able to recover in tort is a fundamental principle of our state’s tort system … . The physical harm requirement serves a number of important purposes: it defines the class of persons who actually possess a cause of action, provides a basis for the fact-finder to determine whether a litigant actually possesses a claim, and protects court dockets from being clogged with frivolous and unfounded claims.
Having alleged no physical injury or damage to property in their complaint, plaintiffs’ only potential pathway to relief is for this Court to recognize a new tort, namely, an equitable medical monitoring cause of action. Caronia v Philip Morris USA Inc, 227, CtApp 12-17-13