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Mother of crash victim wins $1.8M from methadone clinic

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  1. Spucky
    [h4]Mother of crash victim wins $1.8M from methadone clinic[/h4]
    NEWFANE - A Massachusetts for-profit methadone clinic has agreed to pay the family of an 8-year-old Jacksonville girl close to $1.8 million after she died in a 2005 truck crash involving a patient from the clinic.

    Stephen Fairchild, 24, of Putney, had been treated at the Community Health Care Inc. clinic in Greenfield, Mass., earlier in the day on April 4, 2005, and his autopsy results showed that the level of methadone was "peaking" at the time of the head-on accident, which killed Fairchild and Kayla Lackey during the Route 9 accident in Marlboro.

    Lackey was a passenger in a truck driven by her mother, Erin Lackey, 32, along with her two cousins, Joshua O'Hearn, 4, and Jacob O'Hearn, 12. They were on their way to Brattleboro in their grandmother's truck to pick up their bicycles at a local shop.

    Fairchild was westbound at the time of the head-on crash; his pickup collided with the Lackey truck in its lane. Erin Lackey is the executor of her only child's estate.

    The Lackey estate had sued Community Health Care Inc., which is based in Chicopee, Mass., and Dr. Walter Slowinski of Putney because of their care of Fairchild, who had a long history of heroin abuse and erratic driving, according to the suit filed in 2007 in Windham Superior Court. The case against Slowinski, who prescribed anti-anxiety medication for Fairchild while he was on methadone, settled out of court in January, according to court records. Autopsy results also revealed recent use of cocaine and marijuana, according to court records.

    Attorney Rolf Sternberg of Bennington said Friday the conditions of the settlement of the suit precluded him from disclosing the name of the defendants in the case.

    But he said the suit focused on what responsibilities the clinic and Fairchild's personal physician had in monitoring his behavior, given the drugs that were prescribed to him.

    "Clinics will tell you they perform a public service," said Sternberg. "Their responsibility is to monitor what other drugs were being prescribed," he said. In addition to the methadone, Fairchild was on Klonopin, an anti-anxiety and anti-seizure medication and trazodone. Together, Sternberg said, the drugs had an "additive effect" that impaired Fairchild's ability to drive a vehicle.

    The clinic failed to adequately monitor Fairchild after they gave him "take-home" bottles of methadone - violating their own regulations regarding such bottles - the suit said, yet the clinic continued to let him take the drugs home.

    "I hope there are changes by all clinics all across the country," Sternberg said. "What is astonishing, you can't just say you are treating a substance abuser without knowing what other drugs they are taking and what effects those drugs have."

    Fairchild also missed required counseling sessions and other sessions, the suit stated, and the methadone clinic failed to follow through on its own requirement that Fairchild undergo blood testing because of numerous burn marks on his clothing and on his chest, which the suit said was "a classic sign of substance abusers."

    Also according to the suit, Fairchild had a lengthy history of motor vehicle accidents and psychiatric outbursts, warning signs that were ignored.

    The suit stated that Fairchild "smashed up his car" in August 2004, and was involved in a motor vehicle accident in 2003, and in January 2004 received numerous speeding tickets. In September 2001, he was found passed out by the side of the road.

    Fairchild also reported that his prescription medications were either lost or stolen, another warning sign that went ignored, the suit said.

    James Coffrin of Burlington, the lawyer for Community Health Care Inc., didn't return a telephone call seeking comment on the settlement.

    Sternberg said Erin Lackey received a severely fractured arm in the crash, and the suit stated she had ongoing medical bills as a result of the accident.

    He said the Lackey cousins escaped serious physical injury in the accident, but were traumatized from the incident.

    Sternberg said that it took his law firm a long time to get access to Fairchild's medical records because there is a presumption of privacy and Fairchild was dead. The lawsuit was filed more than two years after the accident.

    According to court records in Newfane, the Lackey estate had earlier sued the estate of Stephen Fairchild, and had reached a settlement in 2007 before suing the medical clinic and physician

    source: http://www.timesargus.com/article/20100410/NEWS/100419999/1003/NEWS02

Comments

  1. imyourlittlebare
    I would post on this but it would be nothing but flaming directed at the legal system.

    While I feel awful for that girl and her family, a settlement like this is painfully unnecessary.
  2. missparkles
    What price would you put on the loss of a child, cos I have lost one, and I can tell you that figure is priceless....simple as. No amount of money can ever, ever replace a child, but as people nowadays place such esteem in monetary terms it's (unfortunately) the only way you can make someone sit up and take notice. And by doing so it gets a lot of publicity, which has got to be worth it if it stops someone else getting behind the wheel of a car, whilst intoxicated?

    Sparkles.:vibes:
  3. coolhandluke
    to be honest it sounds like this clinic wasn't following procedures properly, and thats there fault. not to say i agree with the whole sue happy culture, but everyone knows people sue over all kinds of reasons, and if a methadone patients isn't properly maintained, bad things could happen. of course 1.8 million wont bring anyone back to life, but it could make the family's life easier.
  4. forwhomthebelltolls
    regardless of what the clinic prescribed them, they would have felt over medicated and should not have been driving around a jam sandwich...

    this is going to hurt people throught the system... especially the junkies who are actually trying to get clean, and get their lives back on track.
  5. dyingtomorrow
    SWIM cannot wrap his mind around this at all. It is utterly ridiculous, and SWIM doesn't even see how this could even be admitted as a case in the first place, let alone become a successful one against the clinic.

    First of all, there is no claim that the drugs he was being prescribed were inappropriate. He has a right to be on those medicines if it is not deemed to be illegitimately prescribed, which it wasn't. They seemed to complain about it, but stopped short of saying he should have been legally denied them. There also was no case that he should have been kicked out of the clinic - they didn't even really argue that either as far as I can tell. The sub-issues they brought up were completely immaterial. The clinic's (self-enacted) procedures that were "broken" had nothing to do with the man's license and legal driving status. Whether or not he gets take home doses also has nothing to do with his decision to drive. Doctors everywhere prescribe drugs that impair driving, and the patient's negligent decisions outside of the doctor's office have never been regarded as the doctor's liability when the treatment was legitimate.

    What was the clinic supposed to do? It's not like it has the power to take his legal, state-granted drivers license away. Or deny treatment to someone because they have a license and might drive while impaired, or because they have psychiatric problems. On the contrary, it is likely that the law would prohibit them from discriminating based on those factors.

    There doesn't even appear to be one coherent argument here, just a bunch of prejudicial bullshit thrown together about methadone clinics and a disturbed patient.

    This seems like nothing more than blatant discrimination against methadone clinics because of the social prejudice against them and the addicts that need help. If this was a case where a regular general practitioner had prescribed someone oxycodone for pain and diazepam for anxiety, and the person made the choice to take too much or take them incorrectly and did the exact same thing - there is no way in hell it would be regarded that they could sue the doctor because of it.

    Total bullshit and based entirely on social prejudice.
  6. Spucky
    AW: Mother of crash victim wins $1.8M from methadone clinic

    I add the whole Story because some People showed their interest:

  7. Snouter Fancier
    This is not true. In the US, doctors have been and are being sued when their patient is injured or has injured someone else, and is on medication which may cause impairment. Tort law is about money. A lawsuit is not going to happen unless the plaintiff's attorney can find someone with, as they say, 'deep pockets'. If a heroin user falls asleep at the wheel and kills another driver, he will probably go to jail, but there won't be a lawsuit because most heroin users don't have enough money to interest a lawyer. Doctors, on the other hand, must be insured by law, and represent cash on the hoof. If the drug user's drugs were prescribed by a doctor, the attorney will go after the doctor.

    That depends on the state. In some states, doctors are obligated to inform the state's Department of Motor Vehicles if they encounter a patient whose driving abilities may be impaired for any medical reason. This might be from the use of psychoactive drugs, either prescribed, purchased over the counter (e.g., Benadryl or DXM), or obtained illegally. It also might be poorly-controlled epilepsy with unpredictable seizures, or poorly-controlled diabetes with spells of hypoglycemia, or a stroke that makes the person unable to control a car, or many other things. When the state gets this notification, it will rescind the person's driver's license.

    Incidentally, in tort law in general, if the defendant has established procedures but violates them, that counts strongly in favor of the plaintiff.

    The tort system in the US often seems to me as though it has developed to benefit lawyers, not plaintiffs, and not society at large. If methadone clinics lose more money in lawsuits than they make, then they cannot survive economically, and they will disappear. That would be a shame.
  8. dyingtomorrow
    ^^^ Yes I made that statement far too simply in the throws of passion. I intended to be speaking more philosophically than in fact in my post. I know there is a constant push and pull politically with tort liability for doctors. And that people can, in fact, attempt to sue for pretty much anything and that success may vary depending on how crazy the jury is, that is where they can squeeze it through the hoops of what is a valid action in tort law.

    I meant, moreso by the statement, that where the medical grounds for the prescription are solid and the doctor has been reasonably diligent and following common practice, they are not generally held responsible for the patients actions. When the action of the patient is so far distanced from what the doctor, following legitimate medical practice, has done, it is far from the rule that they are liable. But again, once a tort case has the legal basis to go forward, a prejudicial, irrational jury can come to whatever unjust conclusion they want, as I believe happened in this case. There are all kinds of ways a doctor could be negligent in such a case - not adequately warning the patient of the potential impairment, not warning of interactions, etc. (which I believe is bullshit too, taking the onus of responsibility off of an adult who is expected to have reasonable sense), but I think in cases like this that the disregard of the responsibility of the person and the liability of a doctor giving "run of the mill" treatment, as much as methadone is, is ridiculous. As I said, this outcome of this case rested almost entirely upon the prejudice of the jury/judge (whoever the trier of fact was) against methadone treatment.

    It's interesting to learn that in some states doctor's have an affirmative obligation to inform the DMV about patient impairment, but I strongly get the impression that it is tenuous, especially in terms of liability. I don't know if you mean it is actual legislation, or arises from case law, but it seems like an unwieldy legal construction with very little practical implementation. After all, obviously neither a methadone clinic nor a doctor prescribing opiates is going to inform the DMV about every patient of theirs who could have impaired driving, since it would be all of them. I also cannot see them even needing to inform the DMV of every opiate/benzo combination, and I highly doubt the DMV even rescinds licenses in that case anyways. Infact, to the degree that obligation actually exists, it seems almost totally useless. Of course it would give ambulance chasers some tort action wiggle room, but speaking in generalities it is very hard to see how doctor liability could truly arise out of that. In fact, in law, in common sense fairness, in practicality, and in ethical philosophy,
  9. Spucky
    AW: Mother of crash victim wins $1.8M from methadone clinic

    I am surprised that the People on this Medications are still allowed to drive a Car in the US.!

    In Germany and Switzerland it is not, the Driving Licence need to be returned!

    People in the MMT. as well as in the Heroin-Program are not allowed to drive!
  10. kailey_elise
    Also in Masschusetts, I know someone who was not-at-fault in a car accident, but the insurance company doesn't want to pay out, because the person had methadone in the system at the time of said accident.

    The person is fighting it.

    And no, it's not me! *L*

    ~Kailey
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