Judge denies Husel’s request for Mount Carmel parent company to pay legal fees

William Husel appears in court during a pre-trial hearing - July 18, 2019 (WBNS-10TV)

COLUMBUS (WBNS) – A federal judge in Michigan has denied a legal claim by Dr. William Husel that Mount Carmel Health System’s parent company, Trinity Health, should pay for his criminal defense fees.​

Husel is charged with 25 counts of murder – accused of giving his patients at Mount Carmel Health System too much fentanyl. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and awaits a June trial.

His attorneys have said he did not intentionally kill his patients and was providing “comfort care” to patients in their final moments.

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Husel’s attorneys sued Trinity Health in August, claiming that the company’s insurance policy should pay for Husel’s legal defense fees – including those for his criminal case – because the allegations of wrongdoing happened during his term of employment with Mount Carmel.

The judge disagreed, writing in part:

“…based on the plain language of the policy, Plaintiff has not demonstrated a likelihood that Defendants must advance defense costs in his criminal case.”

Part of the judge’s ruling also read as follows:

“…The Policy at issue here is a professional liability and managed care liability policy to cover the risk of civil damages claims, not the risk of public prosecution for crimes committed in the provision of medical services.”

A court filing in the case states that Dr. Husel’s attorneys argued that because Mount Carmel’s parent company, Trinity Health, was defending Husel in civil lawsuits filed by the patients’ families, that it must “defend him in the criminal cases as civil and criminal cases arise out of the same alleged wrongdoing.”

The judge disagreed, adding:

“While Plaintiff is no doubt correct that criminal convictions would bar coverage for civil defense costs, this unfortunate possibility for Dr. Husel cannot be used to rewrite the plain language of the policy which simply does not provide for defense costs in a criminal case.”

The ruling went on, stating:

“In sum, based on the plain language of the Policy and persuasive precedent interpreting similar policies, Plaintiff is unlikely to succeed on the merits of his claim that Defendants are required to advance defense costs Case 2:19-cv-12478-GCS-DRG ECF No. 26 filed 01/08/20 PageID.813 Page 17 of 22 - 18 - now. In reaching its decision that Plaintiff is unlikely to prevail on the merits, the court need not reach TAL’s argument that Plaintiff cannot be considered an ‘insured’ as he was acting outside the scope of his employment when he allegedly murdered his patients.”

Part of Trinity’s argument was that Dr. Husel was acting outside the scope of his employment and that the allegations of murder are not insurable.

Attorneys for Husel then responded in court filings, claiming that Mount Carmel West Hospital had no policies in place regarding the specific amount of pain relief that could be administered to patients during the process of removing life support.

Attorneys for Trinity Health argued that Mount Carmel’s policy is hearsay and not supported by evidence. The judge ruled that the issue in this case was moot because he was merely ruling on whether or not the policy should cover Husel’s legal defense fees in his criminal case.

Mount Carmel sent a statement to 10 Investigates Thursday saying:

“We are pleased with the court's ruling denying Dr. Husel's request. As always, Mount Carmel will continue focusing on caring for our patients.”

Adam Ford of Ford O'Brien LLP, who represents Husel, sent the following statement to 10TV:

"While we are disappointed in the judge's decision we are more disappointed in Mount Carmel and Trinity Health for their continuing to mislead the public about what occurred here. Mount Carmel and Trinity both know that Dr. Husel's care was entirely appropriate and did not cause harm to any patient, and they should be standing up for their employees and defending them against all baseless allegations."