The Fourth Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined that defendants in this medical malpractice action should not have been precluded from asserting the negligence of non-parties (CPLR article 16 defenses) as an affirmative defenses. The court noted that, although the a ruling on a motion in limine is generally not appealable, a ruling on a motion which seeks to limit the legal theories which can be asserted is appealable:
“Generally, an order ruling [on a motion in limine], even when made in advance of trial on motion papers constitutes, at best, an advisory opinion which is neither appealable as of right nor by permission” … . There is, however, “a distinction between an order that ‘limits the admissibility of evidence,’ which is not appealable . . . , and one that ‘limits the legal theories of liability to be tried’ or the scope of the issues at trial, which is appealable” … . * * *
… [D]efendants are entitled to assert their CPLR article 16 defenses regarding the nonparty providers. “As provided in CPLR 1601 (1), a defendant may raise the CPLR article 16 defense regarding a nonparty tortfeasor, provided that the plaintiff could obtain jurisdiction over that party” … . Here, defendants are entitled to raise their pleaded affirmative defenses pursuant to CPLR article 16 … because plaintiff could have sought to maintain an action against the nonparty providers in Supreme Court … .
The crux of the issue on appeal is whether defendants were required, in response to plaintiff’s demands for bills of particulars, to particularize the pleaded CPLR article 16 defense, and thus whether the court properly precluded them from asserting that defense at trial when they did not timely particularize that defense. We conclude that no such particularization was required under the circumstances of this case, and thus that the court erred in precluding defendants from asserting the CPLR article 16 defense at trial. Harris v Rome Mem. Hosp., 2023 NY Slip Op 04273, Fourth Dept 8-11-23
Practice Point: Motions in limine generally are not appealable. But motions seeking to preclude legal theories of liability are appealable.
Practice Point: Under the unique circumstances of this case, defendants in this medical malpractice action should not have been precluded from presenting CPLR article 16 affirmative defenses on the ground the defenses were not particularized in the bill of particulars. It was not clear the demands related to the CPLR article 16 affirmative defenses.