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Husel v. Trinity Health Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 8, 2020

WILLIAM S. HUSEL, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff 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.

         I. Factual Background

         Dr. 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 “Policy”).

         Dr. 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.

         In 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.

         II. Standard of Law

         The 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 relief.

         III. Analysis

         A. Likelihood of Success on the Merits

         Although 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.[1]

         1. Choice of Law

         In 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.

         2. Standard of Law for Interpretation of an Insurance Policy

         It is 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).

         3. ...

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