Jurors awarded $10.1 million in damages to the family of an overdose victim hoping the multimillion dollar verdict strikes fear into other “pill mills” that have turned the city into a national hub for prescription drug abuse. “Our verdict shows how much our community is against these pill mills and wants things to change,” said a juror after finding gross negligence led to the overdose death of the victim. Another juror agreed, saying the verdict issued in District Court should discourage others who might be improperly churning out the addictive drugs that killed the plaintiff.
The victim 54, died two days after his only visit to a Medi Clinic where he received a prescription for three potent drugs: hydrocodone, xanax and soma. He had sought help there for chronic pain he suffered from a motorcycle injury and a fall at a petrochemical plant. The clinic’s director had prescribed this same drug combo — known as the “holy trinity” — at least 3,800 times between 2006 and 2007 at more than 17 pain area clinics that he then oversaw, records showed. But his prescription-writing came to an abrupt halt when he was forced to surrender his license to the Medical Board just three days after the victim died.
The Dr. who repeatedly pleaded the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination during the four-day trial, was found grossly negligent and slapped with the stiffest penalty: $9.05 million. The 72-year-old physician chose not to be present for the reading of the verdict, and his attorney declined comment. The family’s attorney commented on the Dr.s absence: “I don’t think he has any remorse or compassion. The other two defendants expressed their sympathy about my client’s death, but he took the Fifth even on that.”
He believes other pill mills will take notice, especially “if their only motive is profit and we can take that away.” Another defendant was also found grossly negligent and ordered to pay about $745,000 in damages. She was an equal owner of the cash-only clinic along with her husband and a chiropractor. The chiropractor settled out of court for an undisclosed amount before the trial started. The plaintiffs say they were unaware of the other Dr.s involvement until after the statute of limitations had run out.
The third defendant a recruiter who placed the doctor at the clinic, was ordered to pay the least, $85,000, because one of the 12 jurors did not believe his involvement met the test for punitive damages. The victim’s 88-year-old mother who was a plaintiff along with her son’s three children, was speechless after the verdict. Then her eyes teared and she said, “Maybe some of those pill clinics will shut down. Let’s hope,” The victim’s sister ,referring to more than 1,200 pill deaths recorded in the last two years, says “the jury has given a lot of hope to other families of those who are dying all over the place from this.”
If you, a friend or a family member has been subjected to such gross negligence by a pill mill contact my office for a free initial consultation at 1-800-320-0080 or make an appointmnet at one of my convenient locations offices in Rockville or Baltimore.