In a seven-day trial in Laurel Circuit Court, a jury ordered St. Joseph Health Systems to pay a Corbin man more than $21 million in damages after it upheld his claim that he needlessly was put through the ordeal of receiving a pacemaker.
The jury found that St. Joseph Health Care System, Inc., specifically Saint Joseph London, failed to exercise prudent care and skill and conspired with Dr. Anis Chalhoub in the performance of the medically unnecessary surgery.
Finally, the jury found that the hospital violated the Kentucky Consumer Protection Act in its dealings with Wells.
The jury awarded Wells $20 million in punitive damages, $24,785.94 in medical expenses, $500,000 in past pain and suffering and $750,000 in future pain and suffering.
According to paperwork filed in the case, the jury found that St. Joseph and Chalhoub each bear 50 percent of the responsibility for their failure to comply with their respective duties and that such a failure was a substantial factor in causing injuries to Wells.
In the lawsuit filed Feb. 1, 2012, Wells alleged that it was through negligence, lack of informed consent, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent concealment and to enrich themselves that the defendants installed the pacemaker.
Wells contends that Chalhoub told him in September 2010 that tests showed a 60 percent blockage in an artery and that Wells would die without a pacemaker.
Wells agreed to the pacemaker but Chalhoub later recommended a stent, resulting in Wells seeking a second opinion.
Tests run by the new doctors indicated Wells had a 10 percent blockage and neither the pacemaker nor stent were medically necessary.
More than 300 people have filed lawsuits against St. Joseph Health System since 2011 alleging similar misconduct.
In January 2014, St. Joseph Health Systems agreed to pay the federal government $16.5 million to resolve civil allegations that it submitted false or fraudulent claims to the Medicare and Kentucky Medicaid programs for a variety of medically unnecessary heart proceedures.
In a press release following the settlement, Greg Garard, President of Saint Joseph London, said the hospital reached terms with the federal government to “avoid the expense and uncertainty of prolonged litigation, and to allow the hospital to move forward.”
“We are committed to providing the communities we serve with safe, high quality health care performed with the highest of integrity,” Gerard said. “We are pleased to have reached this agreement so that we can move forward.”
The hospital reached the terms of the settlement “without admission of a violation of the law …”
Wells is the first of three cases in which a jury has ruled in the plaintiff’s favor, though several of the others have been settled.
Approximately 170 suits against St. Joseph Health System remain.
A federal grand jury indicted Chalhoub in June on charges that he attempted to defraud Medicare, Medicaid and other government and private health insurers on at least 13 different occasions dating back to March 2007.
According to the indictment, Chalhoub allegedly implanted permanent pacemakers in the patients without sufficient medical need or justification.
If convicted, Chalhoub faces up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.
In addition, prosecutors may seek restitution.
At one time, Chalhoub had admitting privileges at St. Joseph London and Baptist Health Corbin.
Debbie Hardin, a spokesperson for Baptist Health Corbin, said Chalhoub’s privileges at the hospital have been inactive since May 31, 2013.
Sharon Hershberger, public affairs director at St. Joseph London, said Kentucky Health ended its relationship with Chalhoub in June 2013.