ST BARNABAS HOSPITAL v. ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY

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Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York.

ST. BARNABAS HOSPITAL, as assignee of Patrick Bateman, respondent, et al., plaintiff, v. ALLSTATE INSURANCE COMPANY, appellant.

Decided: October 27, 2009

PETER B. SKELOS, J.P., JOSEPH COVELLO, FRED T. SANTUCCI, and RUTH C. BALKIN, JJ. McDonnell & Adels, PLLC, Garden City, N.Y. (Martha S. Henley and Short & Billy [Skip Short], of counsel), for appellant. Joseph Henig, P.C., Bellmore, N.Y., for respondent.

In an action to recover no-fault medical payments under two insurance contracts, the defendant appeals, as limited by its brief, from so much of an order of the Supreme Court, Nassau County (Woodard, J.), entered September 25, 2008, as denied that branch of its motion which was pursuant to CPLR 5015 to vacate so much of a judgment of the same court entered May 15, 2008, as, upon its default in appearing or answering the complaint, is in favor of the plaintiff St. Barnabas Hospital, as assignee of Patrick Bateman, and against it in the principal sum of $4,309.64.

ORDERED that the order is affirmed insofar as appealed from, with costs.

 A defendant seeking to vacate a judgment entered upon its default in appearing or answering the complaint must demonstrate a reasonable excuse for its delay in appearing or answering, as well as a meritorious defense to the action (see CPLR 5015[a][1];  Westchester Med. Ctr. v. Hartford Cas. Ins. Co., 58 A.D.3d 832, 832, 872 N.Y.S.2d 196;  Verde Elec. Corp. v. Federal Ins. Co., 50 A.D.3d 672, 672-673, 854 N.Y.S.2d 531).

 “A proper denial of [a] claim [for no-fault benefits] must include the information called for in the prescribed denial of claim form (see 11 NYCRR 65-3.4[c][11] ) and must ‘promptly apprise the claimant with a high degree of specificity of the ground or grounds on which the disclaimer is predicated’ ” (Nyack Hosp. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 11 A.D.3d 664, 664, 784 N.Y.S.2d 136, quoting General Acc. Ins. Group v. Cirucci, 46 N.Y.2d 862, 864, 414 N.Y.S.2d 512, 387 N.E.2d 223).   However, a timely denial of a no-fault insurance medical claim alone does not avoid preclusion where said denial is factually insufficient, conclusory, vague, or otherwise involves a defense which has no merit as a matter of law (see Nyack Hosp. v. Metropolitan Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 16 A.D.3d 564, 565, 791 N.Y.S.2d 658).

 The defendant insurer, Allstate Insurance Company (hereinafter Allstate), issued a timely denial of claim within 30 days of its receipt of the completed hospital facility form (NYS Form N-F 5) from the plaintiff St. Barnabas Hospital, as assignee of Patrick Bateman (hereinafter the plaintiff) (see 11 NYCRR 65-3.5[g], 65-3.8[c] ).  Contrary to Allstate's contention, however, the Supreme Court properly determined that the denial of claim, which incorrectly stated the amount of the claim and gave an invalid reason for the denial (see 11 NYCRR 65-3.3[d], 65-3.5[g];  see also Westchester Med. Ctr. v. Lincoln Gen. Ins. Co., 60 A.D.3d 1045, 1046, 877 N.Y.S.2d 340;  Nyack Hosp. v. Encompass Ins. Co., 23 A.D.3d 535, 536, 806 N.Y.S.2d 643), was fatally defective (see Nyack Hosp. v. Metropolitan Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 16 A.D.3d at 565, 791 N.Y.S.2d 658;  Nyack Hosp. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 11 A.D.3d at 665, 784 N.Y.S.2d 136;   Presbyterian Hosp. in City of N.Y. v. Maryland Cas. Co., 226 A.D.2d 613, 614, 641 N.Y.S.2d 395).   Thus, Allstate failed to demonstrate the existence of a meritorious defense (see CPLR 5015[a][1] ).

Accordingly, the Supreme Court properly denied that branch of Allstate's motion which was pursuant to CPLR 5015 to vacate so much of a judgment of the same court entered May 15, 2008, as, upon its default in appearing or answering the complaint, is in favor of the plaintiff and against it in the principal sum of $4,309.64.

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