TRAGIC MANNY'S MOM SUES By SUSAN EDELMAN June 4, 2006 -- The mother of Manny Lanza, an uninsured man who died after his brain operation was delayed, is seeking punitive damages against a Man hattan hospital and the doc tors who "let him die." Levia Prieto, of Shirley, L.I., filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Friday against St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital and three doctors, charging they refused to treat her son "without a guar antee of payment." "This is the only way to prevent them from doing this to someone else," Prieto said of her suit in Manhattan state court. She found her son, 24, dead in his bed on Jan. 6, 2005, nearly two months after a procedure to reduce the swelling of blood vessels in his brain was postponed. Records show the hospital was waiting for Lanza, a Wendy's "employee of the year," to get Medicaid coverage. The medical malpractice suit takes the unusual step of seeking punitive damages for what it calls conduct "motivated by evil and reprehensible motives." Following reports in The Post, state Health Commissioner Dr. Antonia Novello slapped St. Luke's with nine patient-care violations and $18,000 in fines. The state's Office of Professional Medical Conduct is investigating the doctors, including radiologists Yasunari Niimi and Alejandro Berenstein, who specialized in treating Lanza's condition, arteriovenous malformation, or AVM. St. Luke's denies it refused to treat Lanza, saying its medical staff "met the highest standards of medical ethics and clinical competence."