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Medical malpractice lawsuits against former doctor William Husel to go to trial in June

William Husel
Fred Squillante
/
AP
William Husel stands during a short break in his trial on Tuesday., Feb. 22, 2022 at the Franklin County Common Pleas Courthouse in Columbus, Ohio. Husel, was acquitted on all 14 counts of murdering his patients at Columbus-area Mount Carmel Health System, by using excessive painkillers.

The first of ten medical malpractice lawsuits against former doctor William Husel will go to trial starting in late June. Depositions in the civil lawsuits pending against Husel began in May.

After a seven-week trial, a jury rendered a not guilty verdict to Husel in April for the murder of 14 patients under his care while a physician at Mount Carmel West Hospital. Prosecutors argued that Husel overprescribed painkillers to patients leading to their deaths. Husel’s attorneys said he was providing compassionate care to those severely ill.

Ohio State University Moritz College of Law Clinical Professor Elizabeth Cooke said if he had been found guilty, the criminal trial results would have been admissible in the civil cases. However, she thinks the trial could still play a role in the upcoming civil cases, even though a jury acquitted Husel on all fourteen murder counts.

"I assume the plaintiffs’ lawyer may want to use that against him, but I think there's a good argument from the defense perspective that that should not be admissible,” said Cooke. "I would argue if I were the defense counsel that that was overly prejudicial."

Cooke said civil cases have an advantage in that they can be considered separately.

"That's an individual assessment of that patient's records, that patient’s treatment and that patient's condition,” said Cooke.

The burden of proof in a civil case is also different. Cooke said in medical practice cases, attorneys must first prove that the doctor's care fell below the standard of care to a reasonable degree of medical certainty. Secondly, they must prove the failure to meet the standard of care was the proximate cause of the patient's death.

“For any criminal case, the burden of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Cooke. “And that’s the highest burden that we have in our legal system. In a civil case, in a medical malpractice case, the burden of proof is the preponderance of the evidence. And that’s a lower standard of proof.”

In civil cases only eight jurors deliberate, unlike the twelve required in criminal cases. And instead of a unanimous decision, only six out of eight jurors must agree on a verdict.

Following the not guilty verdicts in the criminal trial, Husel surrendered his medical license to the state medical board. The board then permanently revoked it after Husel agreed he had failed to cooperate with the board’s investigation into the criminal allegations.

Debbie Holmes began her career in broadcasting in Columbus after graduating from The Ohio State University. She left the Buckeye state to pursue a career in television news and worked as a reporter and anchor in Moline, Illinois and Memphis, Tennessee.