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Midei verdict vacated in stent case

Even as a jury continues to deliberate on damages, a medical malpractice verdict against former cardiologist Mark Midei has been vacated.

The question is why.

After two weeks of trial in Baltimore County Circuit Court, the jury found Midei liable last Wednesday for medical malpractice for placing an unnecessary stent in plaintiff Glenn L. Weinberg. However, Judge Nancy M. Purpura granted a motion by consent to vacate the verdict with prejudice on Friday.

This means the verdict as to Midei’s liability is void and the case cannot be retried. It also nullifies any effect a plaintiff’s verdict might have on the hundreds of claims still pending against Midei and his former employer, St. Joseph Medical Center, by other patients.

Because Purpura placed the attorneys in the Weinberg case under a gag order at the beginning of the trial, they cannot discuss the reasons for the motion by consent.

Some attorneys, however, say the vacated verdict as to Midei could have come as part of a settlement.

“I strongly suspect that if the judge motioned to vacate the liability verdict where everyone consented, what the parties agreed to do is take the amount of the award out of the hands of the jury by reaching an agreement,” said Philip C. Federico of Schochor, Federico and Staton P.A. in Baltimore.

Associate Professor Gregory Dolin, co-director of the Center for Medicine and Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law, also said the plaintiff’s agreeing to vacate a verdict could be part of a settlement agreement or strategy.

“If they are going to recover any significant amount of money,” Dolin said, “it’s going to be from the hospital,”

However, vacated verdicts can occur for a number of other reasons, including erroneous legal instructions or a finding that the jury could not reasonably have reached a particular verdict, Dolin said.

Attorney Thomas C. Cardaro of the Law Offices of Cardaro & Peek LLC in Baltimore said that while he has no idea what happened in the Midei case, the vacated judgment could stem from a simple procedural error.

“It could just be a typographical thing not being exactly correct,” Cardaro said. “It could be that innocuous.”

All attorneys, however, agreed the circumstances were unusual.

“It’s not a normal, everyday thing you see,” Cardaro said.

Under the joint tortfeasor statute, if one defendant is dropped from the case, the amount a party can collect from the other is lessened.

Dolin said if there has been a settlement with Midei, St. Joseph will likely have to pay what is left over from the damages amount determined by the jurors.

Weinberg, a Baltimore businessman, is suing for $50 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages.

Weinberg argued that he missed out on a stake in Maryland Live Casino, which opened in June 2012, after he quit the Cordish Co. development firm to recover from his stent surgery. After Weinberg found out about accusations against Midei in 2009, he said he was unable to get his job back.

Robert J. Weltchek of Weltchek Mallahan Weltchek LLC in Lutherville and Richard V. Falcon, William H. Murphy Jr. and Mary V. Koch of Murphy, Falcon & Murphy P.A. in Baltimore are representing Weinberg.

J. Michael Sloneker, Gregory L. VanGeison and Danielle S. Dinsmore of Anderson, Coe & King LLP in Baltimore are representing Midei.

St. Joseph and Catholic Health Initiatives, which used to own the hospital, are represented by 10 lawyers, including Andrew D. Levy of Brown Goldstein Levy LLP and Jeffrey J. Hines of Goodell, DeVries, Leech & Dann LLP, both of Baltimore.

The hospital began investigating Midei in 2009 and fired him in November that year. The hospital eventually sent more than 500 letters to patients in 2010 about unnecessary heart stents they could have received from Midei.

A flurry of litigation followed, eventually causing the 145-year-old hospital to suffer financially. Starting in 2009, the hospital lost patients and $3 million a month in revenue.

The University of Maryland Medical System bought the hospital in November last year, renaming it the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. As part of the purchase agreement, Catholic Health Initiatives is still responsible for pending legal actions against the hospital.

In July 2011, Midei’s license was revoked by the Maryland Board of Physicians.

Another lawsuit against Midei filed by 21 plaintiffs, called Bowman et al. v. Midei et al., settled for an undisclosed amount one month after going to trial in April.