Judge denies request to consolidate 2 Mount Carmel wrongful death lawsuits with others

File photo - Mount Carmel West (WBNS-10TV)

COLUMBUS — A desire to consolidate all the Mount Carmel wrongful death lawsuits was further complicated this week after a Franklin County Judge ruled against consolidating two lawsuits in his courtroom with others assigned to different judges.

Twenty-eight wrongful death lawsuits have been filed since 10 Investigates first broke the news in January that patients at Mount Carmel were believed to have been given excessive — or in some cases potentially fatal — doses of pain medications.

The hospital fired Dr. Husel in December after an internal investigation. One of his attorneys, Richard Blake, has said that Husel did not intend to the hasten the deaths of these patients. To date, 35 patients are believed to have been impacted by the scandal — 29 of the patients received what the hospital called “potentially fatal” doses while six others received doses that “went beyond providing comfort” but were likely not the causes of their deaths.

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The hospital initially said that all patients were near death and in intensive care but has since recanted, saying that five of the patients could have seen their conditions improve with treatment.

Attorneys representing Mount Carmel Health System, Dr. William Husel and the families of patients impacted by the patient overdose scandal have all agreed that the cases should be consolidated in front of one judge. The move has been touted as one that would ease the ability to depose witnesses and gather potential evidence.

From there, the parties disagree on who hear the cases.

Attorneys representing both the patients’ families and Dr. Husel have accused each other of judge shopping – with each side accusing the other in legal filings of essentially trying to stack the deck in their favor.

But a ruling by Judge Richard Frye this week further complicates the issue.

The judge denied a motion to consolidated these two cases with several others heard by other judges but did agree that the two cases already assigned to his courtroom involving patients Norma Welch and Timothy Fitzpatrick could be consolidated in his own courtroom.

"It seems inconceivable that one single active common pleas judge could try all cases involving Dr. Husel and Mount Carmel in a timely fashion while still handling the criminal docket. Indeed, transfer of all cases to one judge would seem unfair even if the number of trials were reduced to less than a dozen through settlements. Practically speaking, therefore, there is no need at this time to further consider overall consolidation...”

His order addresses just two cases involving patients Norma Welch and Timothy Fitzpatrick.

A handful of these wrongful death cases have either been settled or are close to being settled, attorneys tell 10 Investigates.

Most remain unresolved.