UPMC officials deny top executive promised care to shooting rampage victims

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UPMC officials say two employees who were injured in the 2012 shooting at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic were mistaken when they said an executive for the health system made promises to them about taking care of their medical bills.

Instead, attorneys for UPMC claim that the executive, whom both victims identified as executive vice president Elizabeth Concordia, visited neither patient.

The two sides will argue the issue next week in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court.

Kathryn Leight, a secretary who was shot in the abdomen, and Jeremy Byers, a security guard shot in the knee, have said in sworn affidavits that Ms. Concordia visited them in their hospital rooms in the days after the March 8, 2012, attack.

“Ms. Concordia first expressed how sorry she was that this had happened to me,” Ms. Leight said in her affidavit, noting her sister was in the room as well. “Ms. Concordia stated that we would take care of everything from a financial standpoint. I would not have to worry about the medical bills, [that] my wages and benefits would continue until I could return to work, and there would always be a job available for me when I felt ready.”

Mr. Byers said much the same.

“The woman I believe to be Ms. Concordia told me, ‘‍Do not worry about anything at all. We will take care of everything,’ ” he said in his affidavit.

But in an affidavit that UPMC attached to a motion to quash the subpoena, Ms. Concordia wrote, “On March 8, 2012, and thereafter, I did not visit with or speak to Kathryn Leight or Jeremy Byers while they were being treated at UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside. Accordingly, I did not make any statements or promises to Mrs. Leight or Mr. Byers related to their medical bills, benefits and wages.”

The affidavit was obtained after Mrs. Leight’s attorney, Mark Homyak, requested earlier this month to depose Ms. Concordia. The issue of the alleged promise she made came to light a few weeks ago, when the plaintiffs received a letter from UPMC Work Partners, which handles the system’‍s workers’ compensation claims.

Work Partners sent both plaintiffs a letter saying that it planned to collect more than $200,000 paid for medical care for each of them from the proceeds they would receive from a $500,000 settlement they expect to share with six other plaintiffs from a rental insurance policy that the shooter, John Shick, had. Shick, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, went on a rampage at the Oakland psychiatric hospital, killing one and injuring five before responding officers shot and killed him.

After receiving the letter, Mrs. Leight and Mr. Byers went to Judge R. Stanton Wettick Jr. for permission to depose Ms. Concordia on the issue of whether she made any promises to the plaintiffs. If she did, the plaintiffs believe they would not be required to turn over any proceeds from the settlement with the Shick rental insurance policy.

At the hearing, UPMC attorneys objected to the deposition, saying that Ms. Concordia is an employee of UPMC Presbyterian/​Shadyside, and not the overall health system, and therefore could not have made any promise on UPMC’s behalf. At the time, they did not answer the question of whether any promise had been made.

Judge Wettick agreed with the plaintiffs and granted permission for the deposition to be conducted within 20 days.

But according to UPMC’‍s motion to quash, because Ms. Concordia never met with Mrs. Leight nor Mr. Byers, a deposition would be “unproductive, unduly burdensome and unfair.”

“It is likely that plaintiffs are simply confusing some other person with Ms. Concordia as it is evident from the medical records that administrators did visit Mrs. Leight’s room,” UPMC attorneys wrote.

Ms. Concordia has been named the new president and CEO at the University of Colorado Health System in Aurora, Colo., and is slated to begin there in September.

Paula Reed Ward: pward@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard.

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