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Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 3:30 pm

Ex-Marin General chairman, hospital win $11.8 million

Heller: ‘Nobody really won here’

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    Robert Heller

    H. Robert Heller

    GREENBRAE –  Roughly a year after being dismissed from the long-running legal dispute between Marin General Hospital and Sutter Health, former hospital board chairman H. Robert Heller, Ph.D., was awarded $848,202 in legal fees and costs from the lawsuit by the Marin Healthcare District, his attorneys said Tuesday.

    Marin General, meanwhile, revealed Wednesday that it was awarded roughly $11 million in legal fees and costs as a result of being declared the prevailing party over Sutter Health. The hospital district previously said the award was expected to be “several million dollars.”

    That’s in addition to $21 million that was awarded earlier in 2012.

    In December 2011, Judge Rebecca Westerfield dismissed all charges against Mr. Heller, which were levied by the Marin Healthcare District after a protracted severance from Sutter Health in 2010. The district accused Sutter of funneling millions of dollars away from the district, and included Dr. Heller, saying that he and other former board members were  privy to the equity transfers and did nothing to stop them.

    In an order issued Friday, Judge Westerfield, a JAMS arbitrator, ruled that Mr. Heller, as the prevailing party, was entitled to recover from Marin General Hospital and Marin Healthcare District $828,591 in legal fees and $19,611 in costs incurred in defending the suit filed against him.

    After the hospital filed suit in August 2010, a Marin County Superior Court judge ordered that the case go to arbitration.

    Marin General, responding to the ruling for Mr. Helller,  pointed to the ruling from Judge Westerfield that declared it the prevailing party and the monetary judgements resulting from that ruling.

    “With this decision, we are hopeful that this will end the long-running dispute between Marin General and Sutter Health, and that both organizations can once again focus 100 percent of our attention on meeting the health care needs of Marin and the North Bay,” said Lee Domanico, Marin General Hospital chief executive officer, in a statement.

    Dr. Heller, in a statement, said he was gratified.

    “Not only did the judge’s dismissal vindicate the actions of the former Marin General board of directors, but the order to pay for my defense proves that this suit never should have been filed in the first place,” he said. “It is disappointing that money wasted on a legal battle could have been spent on health care. Nobody really won here.”

    Dr. Heller was represented by Duane Morris LLP partners George Niespolo and Stephen Sutro.

    This story was first published Jan. 15 at 1:02 p.m.

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