Yale drops lawsuit as Saudis pay up old tab

Yale settled a lawsuit last week in which the Yale-New Haven Hospital and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia were in dispute over outstanding medical bills totaling nearly $52,000.

Several months ago, the University filed a suit at U.S. District Court against one of the world’s wealthiest nations, Saudi Arabia. Yale alleged that the Yale-New Haven Hospital treated a Saudi military officer and his family more than three years ago, but that the first-class services worth $51,744 went unpaid. Now the case has been settled out of court and both sides said they are completely satisfied.

Beginning in 1997, military officer Salman S. Al-Ghamdi and his wife and children were treated at Yale-New Haven Hospital for reasons not available to the public.

Abdul Al-Saif, the military attache at Saudi Arabia’s Washington embassy, wrote to University officials at that time saying the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia and the Armed Forces Office would cover all of the medical expenses incurred through August 1998. And while it may be hard to imagine that an oil-rich country would have a hard time settling its tab, the bills went unpaid and interest mounted over several years — prompting the University to file suit.

Dr. Muddassir Siddiqui, head of the legal department at the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., said the bill has been paid in full now.

“It’s settled and all of the confusion is finally over,” Siddiqui said.

He added that Yale formally withdrew the suit last week.

Yale acquired outside counsel to represent itself in this matter. Joseph M. Tobin of the New Haven law firm Tobin & Melien settled the case on Yale’s behalf. Tobin would not comment on the matter.

Jonathan Clune, associate general counsel at Yale, said lawsuits involving unpaid medical bills are very common. Clune would not say why Yale was the plaintiff in the suit, despite the fact that the hospital is only affiliated with the University and has its own legal department.

In the suit, Yale alleged that the letter Al-Saif sent offering to pay for the Al-Ghambi family’s bills was “false or misleading.”

Providing services to foreign nationals is a common and attractive way for top hospitals to make money, considering most of the patients they treat have HMO-governed insurance.

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