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Families Suing Mount Carmel Say They Rejected 'Offensive' Settlement Offer

Lynn Timmons, brother of James Timmons, at a press conference with a lawyer from the firm Leeseberg & Valentine. [Paige Pfleger / WOSU]
Lynn Timmons, brother of James Timmons, at a press conference with a lawyer from the firm Leeseberg & Valentine.

Families involved in lawsuits against Mount Carmel Health System and fired doctor William Husel rejected a settlement offer from the hospital, calling it "unreasonable, offensive, and disrespectful."

The law firm Leeseberg and Valentine represents many of the 27 wrongful death lawsuits filed so far against the health system. In a statement released Thursday, the firm announced they will begin a formal discovery process and conduct their own investigation.

Husel was fired last year for ordering what the hospital calls “excessive and potentially fatal” doses of pain medication for dozens of his patients. All patients died after receiving the painkiller doses.

Leeseberg and Valentine says its clients were willing to engage in mediation to "avoid lengthy, expensive and emotionally traumatic litigation." But despite Mount Carmel's public apology for the patient deaths, the law firm says the settlements it presented were insufficient.

“We will now begin the formal discovery process and conduct our own independent investigation into how Mt. Carmel allowed these 35 deaths to occur over such a long period of time, the responsibility and failures of staff nurses and pharmacy personnel, and who in hospital administration turned a blind eye to Dr. Husel’s actions,” the statement reads.

Timeline: The Mount Carmel Scandal So Far

Attorney David Shroyer represents three cases against the health system and Husel. Citing confidentiality, he would not confirm or deny rejecting settlement offers from the hospital. However, he stated that "we’re planning on trying our cases to a jury.”

In a statement to WOSU, a hospital spokeswoman says the hospital is "committed to doing what is right and fair throughout our community, including our interactions with families involved in cases related to Dr. Husel." The spokeswoman declined to comment further on legal actions. 

Leeseberg and Valentine's firm says that beginning mid-June, it will call all nurse and pharmacy staff members named in the lawsuits to give depositions.

The deposition notice and discovery requests list Melissa Ann Penix as the plaintiff. Penix died Nov. 20, 2018, while under Husel's care. At the time, the hospital had already received two formal reports about Husel.

According to the family's lawsuit, Penix's death prompted a formal investigation into Husel, who was taken off patient care duty the day after her death.

As part of its dosing investigation, Mount Carmel said last month it reported at least 48 hospital employees to the state nursing and pharmacy boards, as well as appointed interim leaders for Mount Carmel West. Of those employees, 30 were placed on administrative leave and another 18 no longer work for the hospital.

Mount Carmel is currently being investigated by the state Department of Health and federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

Husel worked as an ICU doctor and anesthesiologist from 2013 until his firing in December 2018. He has declined to speak publicly about the case, but his lawyers deny the doctor intentionally or negligently caused any patient deaths. Husel's medical license was suspended by the Ohio Medical Board, and he is scheduled to appear before the board this summer to appeal.

Husel's lawyers requested this weekthat the lawsuits be consolidated into a single court case.

The Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office is currently investigating 29 deaths connected to Husel.

If you have information to share about the Mount Carmel investigation, please contact WOSU at  paige.pfleger@wosu.org. Copyright 2019 WOSU 89.7 NPR News. To see more, visit WOSU 89.7 NPR News.