By Eric Heinz

The expert hospital evaluator and health care market expert the city tapped for its fight against a lawsuit from a former hospital operator has died, according to court documents related to the case.

Pat Carroll of Pat E. Carroll and Associates, a health care industry consulting company, was supposed to provide the city with testimony that, presumably, would help its case against Memorial Healthcare Systems, which operated Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in San Clemente until 2016.

The lawsuit claims the city illegally spot-zoned the land on which the hospital sits by requiring a hospital and only a hospital with emergency services could operate there, and it asks a judgment of $42.5 million the hospital operator claims it’s due because of the city’s actions.

It appeared as though the case would be decided or at least discussed this spring or summer, but everything was delayed as the same federal judge, David O. Carter, overseeing the hospital lawsuit dealt with a lengthy case related to homeless populations in Santa Ana.

“It was terrible. It was the day of his deposition, and he was late, and then his wife called,” said Scott Smith, the San Clemente city attorney. “He has a partner who is going to pick up where he left off and he needed time to get up to speed.”

On Oct. 29, the court finalized the case’s last pretrial conference and postponed litigation until a status conference on Feb. 11. The trial will take place starting at 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 26 at the Ronald Reagan Federal Building and United States Courthouse in Santa Ana.

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