United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
WILLIAM S. HUSEL, Plaintiff,
TRINITY HEALTH CORP. and TRINITY ASSURANCE LIMITED, Defendants.
ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY
INJUNCTION (ECF NO. 4)
CARAM STEEH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Dr. William S. Husel has brought suit against the insurer,
Trinity Assurance Limited (“TAL”), and the first
named insured Trinity Health Corporation (“THC”),
seeking declaratory judgment that Defendants must pay his
defense costs in the criminal proceedings pending against him
on 25-counts of murder. Now before the court is
Plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction to compel
Defendants to advance all defense expenses to him in the
criminal action. On October 16, 2019, this court heard over
two hours of argument on this matter. Counsel for both sides
are to be commended for their presentations. Having failed to
demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits,
irreparable harm, or that the public would be served by the
issuance of a preliminary injunction, Plaintiff's motion
shall be denied.
Husel worked as a doctor in the Intensive Care Unit at
Ohio's Mount Carmel West, a Catholic Hospital. Mount
Carmel West is a subsidiary of the parent corporation THC
which is a named defendant in this lawsuit, along with the
insurer TAL. Plaintiff's employer is Mount Carmel Health
Providers, Inc. (“MCHP”). Under his employment
agreement, MCHP obtained and paid for professional liability
insurance. THC obtained four separate indemnification
contracts (the “Policies”), only one of which
provides for potential indemnification of defense expenses,
the Integrated Risk Liability Policy (the
Husel was terminated on December 5, 2018, following an
investigation that determined he had ordered significantly
excessive and potentially fatal doses of pain medication for
at least 27 patients who were near death. On January 25,
2019, the Ohio State Medical Board suspended Plaintiff's
medical license, and issued its finding that Plaintiff's
continued practice “present[ed] a danger of immediate
and serious harm to the public.” Dr. Husel was indicted
on June 5, 2019 in Franklin County, Ohio, with causing the
death of 25 individuals between February 10, 2015 and
November, 2018. All of his patients died after Dr. Husel
allegedly prescribed a lethal dose of pain medication,
sometimes fentanyl, after his patients were removed from life
support. There are currently 30 pending civil claims for
negligence and wrongful death against Dr. Husel. THC assigned
civil defense counsel to defend Dr. Husel in these civil
actions, but TAL has issued several reservation of rights
letters relating to the civil complaints. Husel has hired as
his criminal defense attorney, Jose Baez, a high-profile
attorney who has represented Casey Anthony, Aaron Hernandez,
and Harvey Weinstein.
early August, 2019, Dr. Husel made a demand on THC/TAL for
defense expenses in connection with the criminal indictments.
On August 5, 2019, TAL issued a denial of coverage with
respect to his request.
Standard of Law
court must consider the following four factors when ruling on
a motion for preliminary injunction:
(1) whether the movant has a strong likelihood of success on
the merits; [(2)] whether the movant would suffer irreparable
injury without the injunction; (3) whether issuance of the
injunction would cause substantial harm to others; and (4)
whether the public interest would be served by the issuance
of the injunction.
Bailey v. Callaghan, 715 F.3d 956, 958 (6th Cir.
2013) (quoting Hunter v. Hamilton Cty. Bd. of
Elections, 635 F.3d 219, 233 (6th Cir. 2011)). Under
these four factors, Plaintiff is not entitled to injunctive
Likelihood of Success on the Merits
the court must conduct a balancing test of the four
preliminary injunction factors, “a finding that there
is simply no likelihood of success on the merits is usually
fatal.” Gonzales v. Nat'l Bd. of Med.
Exam's, 225 F.3d 620, 625 (6th Cir. 2000). Here,
based on the plain language of the policy, Plaintiff has not
demonstrated a likelihood that Defendants must advance
defense costs in his criminal case.
Choice of Law
reaching its decision here, the court first must address
which law governs. The insurance policies do not provide for
any choice of law. This case involves an Ohio Plaintiff,
Defendant THC is incorporated in Indiana with its principal
place of business in Michigan, and Defendant TAL is
incorporated and has its principal place of business in the
Cayman Islands. The parties have referenced both Michigan and
Ohio law in their briefs. Both agree that whether this court
applies Michigan or Ohio law will not change the court's
analysis. Accordingly, the court proceeds under the law of
both Michigan and Ohio.
Standard of Law for Interpretation of an Insurance
settled law in both Michigan and Ohio that an insurance
policy is a contract between the insurer and insured, is
governed by the same principles used to interpret ordinary
contracts, and must be read as a whole to give meaning to all
of their terms. Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. Zen Design Group,
Ltd., 329 F.3d 546, 553 (6th Cir. 2003); Auto-Owners
Ins. Co. v. Harrington, 565 N.W.2d 839, 841 (Mich.
1997); Ward v. United Foundries, Inc., 951 N.E.2d
770, 773 (Ohio 2011). Any ambiguity in an insurance policy is
construed in favor of the insured. Cincinnati Ins.
Co., 329 F.3d at 553. But the court must be careful not
to read an ambiguity into a policy where none exists.
Moore v. First Sec. Cas. Co., 568 N.W.2d 841, 844
(Mich. App. 1997). An “insurer only has a duty to
defend the insured if the charges against the insured in the
underlying action arguably fall within the language of the
policy.” Advance Watch Co., Ltd v. Kemper Nat. Ins.
Co., 99 F.3d 795, 799 (6th Cir. 1996) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted).