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VREELAND v. CARDI

March 19, 2000

WILLIAM JEREMIAH VREELAND, AN INFANT BY HIS FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN, WILLIAM THOMAS VREELAND, PLAINTIFF,
V.
LOUIS CARDI, M.D., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wexler, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This is an action that was commenced in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Suffolk (the "State Court Action") and later removed to this court. In the State Court Action, Plaintiff William Thomas Vreeland ("William Vreeland") sued on behalf of his minor child, William Jeremiah Vreeland, ("Billy Vreeland" or "Billy") for injuries sustained by Billy at birth. The State Court Action was settled for approximately $1.9 million.

In March of 1998, William Vreeland moved, in the State Court, for an order setting the amount, if any, of his medical insurance company's lien on the proceeds of the settlement. Thereafter, the insurer (referred to herein as the "Fund"), citing the Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA") as a basis of federal jurisdiction, removed the action to this court. Presently before the court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motions are denied.

BACKGROUND

I. Factual Background

A. The Birth of Billy Vreeland

Maureen Vreeland, William Vreeland's wife and Billy Vreeland's mother, was admitted to the Community Hospital of Western Suffolk on October 27, 1986. At the time, she was thirty-one weeks pregnant. Two days later, Maureen Vreeland gave birth, prematurely, to Billy. Billy was born with immature lungs. After his birth, Billy was transferred to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he remained for 121 days. For twelve weeks of his stay, Billy was attached to a respirator. Since birth, Billy has been hospitalized on several occasions.

Because there is a dispute between the parties regarding the precise nature and cause of Billy's injuries, the court will not comment extensively on these issues — they are not necessary to the disposition of the instant motions. Suffice it to say, however, that Billy has suffered serious medical complications since his birth. He has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and a variety of lung ailments.

B. The Payment of Billy's Medical Expenses

At all relevant times, William Vreeland has been an employee of Waldbaums. As such, he has been a participant in the Road Carriers Local 707 Welfare Fund (the "Fund"). The Fund reimburses medical expenses of its participants and their dependants. As dependants of William Vreeland, Maureen and Billy Vreeland are eligible for such payment. Since Billy's birth, the Fund has made various payments for his medical expenses. Those payments were associated with, inter alia, Billy's cerebral palsy as well as his lung disease.

C. The State Court Action

William Vreeland commenced the State Court Action in 1990. Named as defendants were Dr. Louis D. Cardi (Mrs. Vreeland's obstetrician), the Community Hospital of Western Suffolk (the hospital where Billy was born — the "Hospital"), Michael Cuccinello, a Registered Nurse Anesthesiologist and his employer, Community Anesthesia Services. Dr. Cardi was argued to be liable for failing to have Mrs. Vreeland transferred to a tertiary care hospital and failure to have a neonatologist present at the birth. The anesthesiologist and his employer were alleged to have improperly resuscitated and intubated the child.

The State Court Action was never tried. Instead, Plaintiff settled with defendants. First, Plaintiff settled with the Hospital for $10,000. Next, in 1998, Plaintiff settled with the nurse-anesthesiologist and his employer for $300,000. Finally, Plaintiff settled with Dr. Cardi for $1.6 million. Upon settling with the latter three defendants, the settling parties put a stipulation on the record stating, in pertinent part, that no part of the settlement was "intended to be for any part of medical expenses." Instead, it was stated to be the intention of the ...


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