You may have heard of Florida’s dram shop law, which allows drunk driving victims in some cases to recover damages from the establishment that served alcohol to the impaired driver. As far as dram shop laws go, it’s not the greatest; it only allows compensation when the driver was under 21 or known to habitually abuse alcohol. Still, it’s an important resource for some victims of these wholly preventable collisions.
Now, given the precedent set by a recent settlement agreement in Minnesota, there may be another alternative for victims of drugged drivers: Action against the doctor or clinic where the driver received prescription medications.
Given the fact that Florida was not long ago labeled the “Oxy Express” and that abuse of prescription painkillers led to an epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose, it’s likely we might see similar cases crop up here.
As media outlets reported late last month, the legal action was triggered by a fatal car crash in 2012 that involved one of the defendants’ patients. The woman had reportedly driven 100 miles from home to the clinic and received a prescription for take-home methadone (a powerful drug given for severe pain or to wean heroin addicts). She then stopped at a gas station and injected the medication before continuing on her drive. But she didn’t get far before she reportedly crossed the center line and crashed into a pickup with two workers inside. That vehicle was then forced into the path of an oncoming semi-truck. The two workers were killed.
Their families then filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the clinic, later adding the doctor as a defendant. Prior to that, the state board of medicine had reprimanded the doctor, concluding he was prescribing excessive quantities of controlled substances while failing to assess the risks to patients. He was also reprimanded for prescribing an opioid addiction drug to three times as many patients as he was allowed under federal guidelines. He was banned for one year from dispensing methadone or other controlled substances.
The driver, 28-year-old Vanessa Brigan, was convicted of two counts of criminal vehicular homicide and sentenced to six years in prison.
In the civil lawsuit, families received permission to seek punitive damages against the clinic and the case was set for trial when a settlement was reached.
That settlement included:
- $5.7 million clinic liability
- $2.5 million doctor liability
Of that total, 75 percent will go to the family of the worker who left behind a wife and children.
These amounts will be paid for by defendants’ respective insurance carriers.
As part of the agreement, both the doctor and the clinic concede to a judgment classifying them as negligent.
Although fewer people are dying of prescription pain medication overdoses in Florida than in years past, it’s still a serious problem. A recent study by the American Journal of Public Health revealed that after a series of state laws were passed that aimed to address the problem, the number of drug-related deaths and arrests fell.
Still, some researchers have called the effect “modest,” with the state reporting a 1.4 percent decline in the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed from 2010 to 2012.
Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
Families get over $8M in precedent-setting case against methadone clinic, Jan. 26, 2016, By Ramona Marozas, NNCNOW.com
More Blog Entries:
Wrong-Way Accidents in Broward, Miami-Dade Target for Safety Advocates, Jan. 25, 2016, Fort Lauderdale Accident Attorney Blog