Former cardiologist Mark Midei improperly placed three stents in the heart of a prominent businessman who didn't need them, a Baltimore County jury ruled Wednesday in a malpractice case.
The jury also found the former owners of St. Joseph Medical Center partly responsible because Midei appeared to be its representative, which means that the penalty phase of the trial can go forward to determine how much both defendants should pay. The lawsuit seeks $150 million in damages, including from lost income and emotional distress.
The lawsuit, brought by Baltimore businessman Glenn Weinberg, alleged that he lost millions of dollars after scaling back his career. He said Midei falsely led him to believe that he had serious coronary artery disease requiring stents — mesh tubes placed into blocked arteries to improve blood flow.
Midei and the hospital's former owners, Catholic Health Initiatives, have been the target of hundreds of lawsuits since allegations emerged that the noted cardiologist overstated patients' conditions to justify stents and increase his income. Few of the cases have come before juries; a joint trial of several cases earlier this year resulted in a broad settlement before jurors got a chance to decide.
Weinberg's attorneys exchanged hugs and high-fives inside the Towson courtroom Wednesday after the verdict was read. Attorneys for Weinberg, Midei, and the hospital's former owners declined to comment because of a gag order imposed by the judge and the trial's pending second phase.
Jurors struggled to reach a unanimous conclusion, as they indicated in notes to the judge over two days of deliberation.
Weinberg, a partner of the Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., contended in the lawsuit that Midei cost him at least $50 million in work. One of the projects taken on by Cordish while Weinberg was recovering was the state's largest casino, Maryland Live in Hanover.
Weinberg, like other former Midei patients now suing the doctor, has alleged medical complications, emotional toll and economic losses. His attorneys argued that Midei's medical findings were flawed and that other medical experts found Weinberg did not need stents.
Midei's lawyers contended that he provided necessary medical care, noting that Weinberg previously had had a small heart attack that the patient did not know about.
"I am proud of the fact that I fixed him," Midei said on the stand during the trial.
Midei wrote in medical records that three of Weinberg's arteries were almost completely blocked — two were 95 percent closed, and the third was 90 percent shut.
The plaintiff's experts disagreed with those figures and noted the potential perils of the procedure. Midei's attorneys said inserting the stents is a life-saving procedure for patients with cardiac problems, and outweighed the risks.
"I'm there to make his life better and improve the likelihood that he's going to be alive," Midei testified, not just record test results.
Midei has denied any wrongdoing since the allegations surfaced in 2009, leading to a federal investigation and a loss of staff and revenue at St. Joseph. The hospital eventually was sold to the University of Maryland Medical System.
Midei was forced to leave St. Joseph, and the Maryland Board of Physicians revoked his license in the state in 2011.
Lawyers for the hospital's former owners said St. Joseph did not have control over medical treatment for Midei's patients. They contended that the facility only provided space for his independent practice.
But Weinberg's attorneys said Midei, acting at the director of the hospital's catheterization lab, presented himself as an employee of the hospital to the community and to patients. The jury found that Midei had not been a direct employee, but had appeared to be acting on the hospital's behalf.
The Weinberg case is the latest of hundreds filed by former patients against Midei and St. Joseph. In May, lawyers for Midei and St. Joseph's former owners settled the bulk of the claims — from nearly 250 of Midei's former patients. The amount of the settlement has not been disclosed. Roughly 45 civil suits remain.
Midei has said he struggled to find work after St. Joseph began warning his patients that their stents might have been unnecessary. He is now a partner at a AshHill Pharmaceutical Investments, a private equity firm that invests in life sciences.
He sued the hospital for defamation, but the case was dismissed last year and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, the state's second-highest court, upheld the dismissal.
The same jury in the Weinberg case is expected to return Monday to Circuit Court in Towson for the second phase of the trial.
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