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PSYCHIATRIC INST. OF WASHINGTON, D.C. v. CONNECTIC

January 3, 1992

THE PSYCHIATRIC INSTITUTE OF WASHINGTON, D.C., INC., Plaintiff,
v.
CONNECTICUT GENERAL LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, and MICHAEL T. WHITE, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: STANLEY S. HARRIS

 This matter is before the Court on defendant Connecticut General Life Insurance Company's (CGL's) motion to dismiss the action and on its motion to strike plaintiff's pleading captioned "Reply." CGL bases its motion to dismiss on the assertion that plaintiff's four state law claims are preempted by the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001, et seq. ("ERISA"), and bases its motion to strike on the assertion that plaintiff's pleading violates Local Rule 108. Upon consideration of the entire record, the Court denies defendant's motion to strike, denies the motion to dismiss with regard to Counts II and IV of the complaint, and grants the motion to dismiss with regard to Counts I and III of the complaint. The Court's dismissal of Counts I and III is without prejudice to plaintiff's right to file an amended complaint within 30 days of the date of this Opinion.

 Background

 Plaintiff, The Psychiatric Institute of Washington, D.C., Inc. (PIW), is a healthcare provider seeking compensation for services rendered to defendant Michael T. White. White was a participant in a group health insurance plan provided by defendant CGL through White's employer, Comsite. PIW treated defendant White as an inpatient between July 6, 1988, and August 1, 1988, and between September 3, 1988, and September 9, 1988. Having received only partial compensation for those services, PIW filed this action in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Defendant CGL subsequently removed the case to this Court, based on 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 29 U.S.C. § 1132(a)(1)(B). See Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Taylor, 481 U.S. 58, 107 S. Ct. 1542, 95 L. Ed. 2d 55 (1987).

 PIW contends that, at the outset of each period of treatment, it obtained oral verification of defendant White's coverage from defendant CGL. PIW also alleges that, prior to each admission, White entered into a written agreement with PIW, authorizing PIW to file insurance claims on his behalf and assigning his insurance benefits to PIW. At the time of White's second admission to PIW, plaintiff mailed CGL an insurance benefits questionnaire requesting written confirmation of the health insurance coverage available to White. However, plaintiff did not receive the completed questionnaire from CGL until after the conclusion of White's second period of treatment. The document stated that White's health insurance coverage had been canceled as of July 5, 1988, one day prior to White's first admission to PIW. Although CGL paid PIW $ 4,385.60 on August 26, 1988, it subsequently refused to pay the remaining $ 14,388.15 in charges for White's treatment at PIW.

 On its face, PIW's complaint is grounded entirely on state law. The complaint consists of two contract claims against CGL, Count I and Count III, a claim of promissory estoppel against CGL, Count IV, and a contract claim against White, Count II. PIW seeks damages from defendants CGL and White in the amount of $ 14,388.15, pre-judgment interest at the statutory rate from September 9, 1988, and attorneys' fees of $ 2,158.22.

 Discussion

 1. CGL's Motion To Strike.

 2. CGL's Motion To Dismiss.

 A. The Existence of an ERISA "Plan."

 Plaintiff PIW contends that CGL's Motion To Dismiss is "premature," because plaintiff has not alleged that the contract of insurance between White and CGL was part of an ERISA "plan," and because the evidence in the record does not conclusively demonstrate that the health insurance benefits in this case were governed by ERISA. Section 1003 of ERISA provides that with limited exceptions, ERISA "shall apply to any employee benefit plan if it is established or maintained - (1) by any employer engaged in commerce or in any industry or activity affecting commerce." 29 U.S.C. § 1003(a)(1). Although PIW's complaint does not explicitly allege the existence of an ERISA plan, plaintiff does allege the existence of a plan of the kind ERISA covers. PIW's complaint alleges that "defendant [CGL] was the health benefits insurer for employees of Comsite, a corporation which is located in Beltsville, Maryland, pursuant to a contract of insurance," and that White was "an employee of Comsite and a participant in the health insurance plan of his employer." Furthermore, the insurance benefits questionnaire completed by CGL and attached to PIW's complaint lists "Comsite" as the "Group Name" for the policy covering White until July 5, 1988, the date on which CGL alleges White's benefits were canceled. In light of PIW's pleadings, the Court concludes that defendant's motion to dismiss is not premature. *fn1"

 B. Claims Against CGL Based on Breach of Insurance Contract.

 Counts I and III set forth state law claims alleging that CGL breached its contract of insurance with White. The complaint asserts that CGL is contractually obligated to pay PIW the remaining charges for services rendered to White, due to PIW's status as an assignee of White's healthcare benefits (Count I) or as a third-party beneficiary to White's contract of insurance with CGL (Count III). CGL contends that ERISA preempts these ...


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