State appeals court upholds verdict in 2017 Excela stent cases; several others still pending in court system |
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Rich Cholodofsky

A state appellate court affirmed a 2017 Westmoreland County jury verdict that cleared a doctor and Excela Health of wrongdoing for implanting cardiac stents into a patient who claimed they were unnecessary.

The appeal involved a lawsuit filed by a North Huntingdon man who claimed five of the seven stents he received in 2008 during three procedures at Excela Health Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg were not medically required. One procedure resulted in life-threatening complications, the lawsuit claimed.

Stents are mesh tubes used to widen and improve blood flow in blocked arteries.

During the three-week trial, lawyers for Steven Sensenich contended Dr. Ehab Morcos intentionally pressured his patient to have cardiac procedures he did not need and that the hospital was aware of the over stenting and did not promptly seek to stop them from occurring.

Sensenich challenged the jury verdict and claimed that Westmoreland County Common Pleas Court Judge Anthony Marsili, who presided over the trial, gave faulty instructions to the jury. The jury deliberated one hour before ruling in favor of the doctor and hospital.

The three-judge panel of the Superior Court ruled the error did not impact the verdict.

“Although the instruction should not have been given at all, the jury was told that it did not apply to claims of unnecessary stenting. The jury rejected Mr. Sensenich’s claim that the stenting procedures were unnecessary when it specifically found that Dr. Morcos did not fail to obtain informed consent, did not commit a battery, and was not negligent in his treatment of Mr. Sensenich,” according to the Superior Court decision.

Sensenich’s lawsuit was the first of more than 100 cases filed against Morcos, his partner, Dr. George Bou Samra, and Excela.

Excela in early 2011 sent letters to 192 patients disclosing they may have received unnecessary stents from Morcos and Bou Samra in 2009 and 2010. Sensenich’s cardiac procedures were the year prior and not part of Excela’s disclosure.

Most of the lawsuits filed against the doctors and Excela have been settled out of court.

Deputy Court Administrator Carol Petrosky said 45 lawsuits were still pending at the end of January. Attorney Victor Pribanic, who represented Sensenich, is the lawyer of record for all but one of the remaining lawsuits. He said he expects another three or four consolidated cases to go to trial, possibly this year.

“I continue to contend the conduct of the physicians and hospital were deplorable,” Pribanic said.

Excela spokeswoman Robin Jennings, in an email Thursday, said the hospital will not comment on pending legal cases.

Meanwhile, Petrosky said it is unclear when the remaining stent cases would be addressed in court. Marsili has retired, and a new judge has not been assigned to oversee the cases. Marsili, who is working part-time as a senior judge, could be called in to hear any motions filed, she said.

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