A judge promised to rule quickly on a lawsuit that could determine whether an 11-year-old leukemia victim receives a potentially life-saving operation in time.

Doctors say Jamie Lacina needs a bone marrow transplant by March 15 to survive more than a few months. But the Seattle hospital that is supposed to treat the boy requires patients to have insurance coverage or $100,000 in hand before it will perform the procedure, said Jim Lacina of Geneva, the boy's father.Mr. Lacina filed suit in 1986 claiming that Nationwide Life Insurance Co. of Columbus terminated his health insurance policy without notifying him.

Mr. Lacina worked as an agent for Nationwide for nine years before losing his job in 1983 because of company cutbacks. He paid to continue his policy after he lost his job, attorneys for both sides agree.

But Mr. Lacina claims he didn't receive a copy of his policy, a subsequent notice that his premium was due or a cancellation notice in late 1983.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Carl J. Character said he would decide quickly on Mr. Lacina's motion that the judge decide the case in his favor without a jury.

If Judge Character rules against Mr. Lacina's request for a summary judgment, the case tentatively is scheduled to go to trial Monday.

Mr. Lacina also is applying for Medicaid in an attempt to pay for the transplant, and a fund for the boy has been established, said Gerald Jeppe, Mr. Lacina's attorney.

Nationwide attorney Edward E. Duncan said the company mailed Mr. Lacina his policy along with a notice that his premium was due. It also later sent a notice of cancellation, he said. Mr. Duncan said a jury should decide whether Mr. Lacina received the mailings.

The facts of this case are indeed tragic. A little boy through no fault of his own may be denied care, Mr. Duncan said. The long and the short of it is whether Mr. Lacina is telling the truth when he says he didn't receive either of those letters or that policy.

If the case goes to trial, Mr. Duncan said, Nationwide will prove that Mr. Lacina's behavior was inconsistent for a man who thought he had health insurance coverage. Mr. Lacina ran up large hospital bills for his son and filed for bankruptcy, Mr. Duncan said.