By Scott Dance, The Baltimore Sun
5:31 PM EDT, April 24, 2012
Dr. Mark Midei knew about ongoing state and federal investigations into heart stent procedures he performed when he gave up his right to sue St. Joseph Medical Center, meaning he couldn't have been duped into it, a Baltimore County judge ruled Monday.
Judge Mickey Norman called the language in a release Midei signed "clear and unambiguous" and disputed Midei's claims that he didn't know further consequences could result from the investigations. The embattled cardiologist sought to hold St. Joseph responsible for destroying his reputation, leaving him unemployed, but Norman dismissed the case before it reached a trial.
Midei will likely appeal the decision to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, said his lawyer, Stephen L. Snyder.
As it stands, Norman's ruling leaves Midei without a claim against St. Joseph as he faces more than 200 lawsuits former patients filed, saying he unnecessarily implanted them with cardiac stents. The Maryland Board of Physicians stripped Midei of his medical license in July, a decision he is also appealing.
Midei was seeking $60 million for each of four counts in the lawsuit, filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court in February 2011.
The lawsuit cast Midei as a scapegoat for St. Joseph as it was in the midst of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into a kickback scheme. St. Joseph and its owner, Colorado-based Catholic Health Initiatives, settled the investigation for $22 million and repayment of funds for questionable procedures in November 2010.
Midei argued he signed the release in November 2009 because St. Joseph officials promised to help him find employment elsewhere, and because he wasn't expecting them to soon send letters to 600 patients warning them their stents might have been unnecessary. The release terminated Midei's employment at St. Joseph and prevented him from taking legal action against the Towson hospital.
But Norman didn't agree that the release was signed in bad faith.
"Improving his immediate employability may have been among Dr. Midei's reasons for entering the Agreement," Norman wrote. However, nothing in the release suggests the hospital "promised to, or intended to, find Dr. Midei employment," he wrote.
Norman also disputed Midei's claims that he wasn't given an opportunity to contest peer reviews that found his stent procedures were unnecessary.
"Contrary to his assertions, it is clear that Dr. Midei preferred to avoid a hearing," Norman wrote.
Midei could not be reached for comment. Snyder, his lawyer, said he was disappointed in Norman's decision not to allow the case to go to trial, using a ruling known as summary judgment. Snyder has argued that evidence that would be discovered at a trial could shed light on much of the upheaval at St. Joseph.
"We did not believe this was a case where summary judgment should have been granted," Snyder said. "We have no regrets making the effort."
St. Joseph officials said in a statement they are pleased with the ruling. Catholic Health officials deferred comment to St. Joseph. The hospital entered an agreement in March to leave Catholic Health and become part of the University of Maryland Medical System.
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