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Vecchiarelli-Carlucci v. Vitale

July 6, 2009

JOAN VECCHIARELLI-CARLUCCI AND JUSTIN CARLUCCI, HER HUSBAND, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
MICHELE B. VITALE AND J.K. CARTING, L.L.C., DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Docket No. L-3424-05.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted June 2, 2009

Before Judges Parker and Yannotti.

Plaintiffs appeal from orders entered by the trial court on August 15, 2008 and September 16, 2008, denying plaintiffs' motion to modify a settlement agreement between plaintiffs and defendants, which would require defendants to pay certain medical bills. We affirm.

This appeal arises from the following facts. On May 12, 2005, plaintiffs filed a complaint in which they alleged that Joan Vecchiarelli-Carlucci (Joan) was injured in an automobile accident when the vehicle that she was operating was struck by a vehicle owned by defendant J.K. Carting, L.L.C., and driven by defendant Michele B. Vitale. Joan sought damages for her personal injuries. Her husband, plaintiff Justin Carlucci, sought damages for the loss of Joan's services and consortium.

On July 20, 2007, plaintiffs served upon defendants their pre-trial information exchange, which included certain outstanding medical bills owed to Meridian Resource Co., Inc. (Meridian) in the amount of $43,185.46. Defendants thereupon filed a motion in limine, arguing that such evidence was barred by N.J.S.A. 39:6A-12.

On July 30, 2007, the first day of the trial, the court granted defendants' motion and precluded plaintiffs from making any reference to the medical bills incurred prior to the trial. The following day, the parties reached an agreement to settle plaintiffs' claims for $650,000.

Plaintiffs executed a release dated July 31, 2007, which released defendants from "any and all claims and rights" that plaintiffs may have against defendants arising from the subject accident. The release included the following provisions related to liens and medical payments:

I will satisfy any and all liens, including, but not limited to medical liens, medical expenses, health insurance payments, workers compensation liens, Medicare/Medicare [sic] liens and/or subrogation liens and agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless the Releasee and its carrier for any claims arising from same.

The undersigned hereby discharges and agrees to indemnify and save harmless the releasees from any liens asserted by any healthcare provider, hospital, insurer or attorney for medical expenses, hospital expenses, lost earnings, payments, attorney liens, subrogation claims or liens and any workers compensation liens as a result of this accident occurrence.

The undersigned hereby certify and represent to the releasee(s) that he/she/they have fully disclosed the name, address, telephone number, policy number and claim number as well as amount claimed as a lien, by any health care provider, subrogation insurance carrier, or attorney as a result of this accident or occurrence.

The undersigned further agrees, represents, and certifies that he/she/they will pay the fully agreed upon amount of any lien asserted by any provider as outlined above directly out of the proceeds of this settlement. The undersigned hereby further agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the releasee from any future lien by any provider as outlined above which has not been previously made known to the parties herein.

In March 2008, Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBS) and Meridian filed a motion to intervene in the settled action.*fn1 BCBS and Meridan filed with their motion a verified complaint against plaintiffs and defendants seeking reimbursement of the benefits paid to Joan ...


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