Summer is finally technically over, so presumably we have no further excuses left for our failure to maintain this blog. In a show of good faith, please to enjoy a new link in our blogroll to Small Town Lawyer. Joel H. Seachrist, Esq., of Beckman & Seachrist, has been kind enough to link to us in his wonderfully useful (and, not to mention, disturbingly more frequently-updated than the blog at bar) blog.
While we rev up further postings, we should all be chewing over the decision in New York & Presbyt. Hosp. v New York Cent. Mut. Fire Ins. Co., 2006 NYSlipOp 05336 (App. Div., 2d Dep't, July 5, 2006). In a very short decision, the following two (2) sentences are (potentially) the most important: "The defendant correctly contends that the plaintiff hospitals lacked standing. The proof adduced at trial included unsigned assignment of benefit forms." Id., citing to Leon v Martinez, 84 NY2d 83 (1994).
To be sure, the lack of a signature is a very deep defect in an assignment. However, with standing now being brought into the game as a necessary result of the operation of a no-fault assignment, one can only wonder what other defects might also preclude standing. Indeed, given that the Appellate Division cites to a non-no-fault case (what Hon. Philip S. Straniere formerly referred to as "real cases"), does this mean that general contract law applies to the determination of the validity of a no-fault assignment? How far can this all go? Have we perhaps entered a Twilight Zone-esque world in which even such outlandish laws and rules as those embodied within the CPLR (gasp!) apply to no-fault?! The mind boggles and the heart quivers.
On a more realistic note, what is the remaining force of the decision in Presbyterian Hosp. v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 233 A.D.2d 433 (2d Dep't, 1996)? In particular, compare the sentences quoted from New York & Presbyt. Hosp. v New York Cent. Mut. Fire Ins. Co., supra, with the following: "[The carrier] failed to allege any deficiency in the plaintiff hospital's assignment in its denial of claim. As a result, it waived any such defense." 233 A.D.2d at 433 (citations omitted). Does the newer decision overrule the older one? Or should we perhaps create a meta-rule of "a carrier waives any defense premised upon any deficiency in an assignment of benefits if it fails to allege such deficiency in a timely denial of claim form, unless such deficiency works to preclude standing"? Most pressingly, should we resolve all of this prior to the 10th anniversary of Presbyterian Hosp. v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. on November 18 of this year?
Anyhow, I'm open to suggestions as to where we'll all have drinks to celebrate Presbyterian Hosp. v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co.'s birthday (and/or to use the occasion to celebrate/mourn its demise). November 18, 2006 is a Saturday, after all.