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Excela Health stent lawsuits postponed until next year

Rich Cholodofsky
| Thursday, June 7, 2018, 12:30 p.m.
Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg, one of three hospitals operated by the health system.
Steph Chambers | Tribune-Review
Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg, one of three hospitals operated by the health system.

Four of the dozens of outstanding medical malpractice lawsuits filed against Excela Health and two former cardiologists accused of performing unnecessary heart procedures have been postponed until early next year.

Westmoreland County Common Pleas Judge Anthony Marsili on Thursday told a courtroom filed with litigants and lawyers that it could take years before all 68 of the pending cases are resolved. The trials had been scheduled for September.

“I just wanted to provide an update of where things stand. I thought it was better they hear it from me,” Marsili said.

Most of the lawsuits were filed in 2011 and 2012 against Excela after the hospital chain disclosed to more than 190 patients that an internal review revealed that some may have been recipients of unneeded stent procedures to physically open blocked blood vessels.

For the first time since the lawsuits were filed, all litigants gathered together in court for what the judge called a hearing to update the plaintiffs and their lawyers, as well as attorneys for the doctors and hospital.

“We're still on the road but we'll have to see how everything plays out,” Marsili said.

Hospital officials in early 2011 sent letters to patients saying they believed Dr. Ehab Morcos and his partner, Dr. George Bou Samara, performed unnecessary procedures to implant the tiny mesh devices used to improve blood flow to and from the heart in 2009 and 2010.

Following that disclosure, about 112 lawsuits were filed in Westmoreland County against the hospital and the doctors.

Since then, about 50 have been settled or discontinued.

One case went to trial last year. Following two-weeks of testimony, a jury deliberated for just one hour and issued a verdict in favor of the hospital and Morcos.

In that case, a North Huntingdon man claimed Morcos implanted a series of stents in 2008 that were not needed.

In the aftermath of that verdict in the defendants' favor, none of the remaining cases have gone to trial. Over the last year, lawyers and the judge worked to figure out how to proceed with the remaining lawsuits.

Marsili said a plan was created to bring four cases at a time to trial. The first trial was scheduled to begin in September, but lawyers said more time was needed to prepare.

The judge on Thursday did not schedule a new trial date for the postponed cases. Marsili is set to retire at the end of the year, meaning all of the remaining stent cases, included the four set for trial, will likely be handled by another judge.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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