Serial Killer Case Ends With No Damage Award

     (CN) – Two families who suspected that their loved ones were victims of a serial-killing nurse cannot collect damages from a hospital that wrongfully pursued an abuse-of-process claim against then, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled.
     Charles Cullen confessed in 2003 to the killing of five patients while he worked at St. Luke’s Hospital
in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He had resigned after his fellow nurses suspected him of giving unauthorized medications to patients.
     He subsequently confessed killing up to 40 patients during the course of his 16-year nursing career, and he is suspected of being the most prolific serial killer in American history. In 2006 he was sentenced to 11 life terms.
     The families of Regina Miller and Marilyn Hall suspected that Cullen made have had a hand in the women’s deaths, so they sued Cullen and St. Luke’s.
     Their cases were dismissed due to a lack of expert testimony.
     However, the hospital sued the families and their lawyer for abuse of process, along with the doctor who provided the certificates of merit.
     The case was dismissed, and the families of Miller and Hall fired back at the hospital with their own abuse-of-process action under the Dragonetti Act.
     The jury agreed with the families that the hospital had sued them for an improper purpose, but it awarded them no damages.
     The Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld the decision, ruling that damages are not assumed in a successful Dragonetti Act lawsuit.
     “In leaving it to the jury to decide whether Appellants proved by a preponderance of the evidence that Appellant’s wrongful use of civil procedure in St. Luke’s II caused harm to Appellees compensable under the statute, the trial court properly conformed its instruction on damages to the requirements of the Dragonetti Act,” Presiding Judge Emeritus Correale Stevens wrote.
     While the hospital won that argument, it did not convince the Superior Court to award it a judgment notwithstanding the verdict.
     Stevens noted that the families filed their original lawsuit on the advice of counsel and with “the support of a medical expert’s certificate of merit.”
     He also cited reports that the hospital had not heeded the concerns of Cullen’s co-workers regarding the treatment of his patients.
     “We discern no reason to disturb the jury’s determination that Appellees acted without probable cause in pursuing its claim of wrongful use of civil proceedings,” Stevens wrote.
     “It was within the province of the jury to infer from the evidence a primary purpose to the St. Luke’s II action of specifically retaliating against Appellants Miller and Hall as well as generally deterring or intimidating the public at-large with respect to filing a negligence-based claim based on the Nurse Cullen controversy,” he added.

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