Ohio physician charged with murder sues Trinity Health over defense costs

An Ohio physician who was indicted on 25 counts of murder earlier this year sued Trinity Health and his medical malpractice insurer in federal court for refusing to cover the costs of defending the criminal charges, according to Bloomberg Law.

William Husel, DO, a former physician at Columbus, Ohio-based Mount Carmel Health System, was charged June 5 in the deaths of 25 hospital patients. He was charged after an investigation concluded that he purposely caused the deaths of the patients between 2015 and 2018 by ordering excessive painkiller doses for terminally ill patients.

Dr. Husel is also being sued in civil court. Since Jan. 14, 30 wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against Dr. Husel and Mount Carmel Health System, according to WBNS. The largest payout to date was for $4.65 million, according to the report.

Dr. Husel's malpractice insurer, Trinity Assurance Ltd., agreed to cover the costs of his defense in each of the civil actions, according to a complaint filed Aug. 22. However, the insurer denied coverage of the costs associated with defending against the criminal indictment, according to the complaint.

Mount Carmel Health System is owned by Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health, which provides malpractice insurance to its employees and subsidiaries through Trinity Assurance. Dr. Husel is suing Trinity Health and Trinity Assurance for breach of contract for denying coverage of the defense costs in the criminal case.

"TAL's determination not to advance the costs of Dr. Husel's defense, unless promptly remedied, will deprive Dr. Husel of the benefit of the applicable insurance policies, which Dr. Husel bargained for and obtained as consideration in his employment agreement," states the complaint.

In a letter sent to Dr. Husel on Aug. 5, Trinity Assurance provided several reasons for denying coverage. However, the lawsuit takes issue with the reasons provided.

"The entire basis of refusing to defend Dr. Husel is the argument that the policies do not advance defense expenses to defend against criminal allegations," states the complaint. "But nowhere in any of the four policies is this said. In fact, the opposite is true. A plain reading of the four policies make clear that they obligate TAL to indemnify, and THC to defend, both civil and criminal allegations. This obligation is specifically required where — as here — the claims are 'false, fraudulent, and groundless.'"

Dr. Husel is seeking a declaratory judgment regarding his rights to the legal costs and fees in connection with his defense of the criminal action. He's also seeking an injunction requiring Trinity Assurance and Trinity Health to advance the costs of his defense.

When contacted by Becker's, Trinity Health declined to comment on the pending lawsuit.

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