Fletcher v. Defendant Psychiatrist

Synopsis:

On October 6, 2015, a Cook County jury returned a verdict in favor of a defendant addiction psychiatrist and pain management specialist, represented by Sherri M. Arrigo and Laura K. Coffey.

Plaintiff alleged that after nearly a year and a half of managing plaintiff’s opioid and psychiatric medications to address her chronic, severe pain and long history of depression and anxiety, the defendant, on August 31, 2010, negligently continued methadone without properly assessing whether continued management with methadone was warranted.

Plaintiff also alleged the psychiatrist inappropriately continued valium despite the increased risk for respiratory depression when combined with methadone, improperly prescribed trazodone as a sleep aid without considering the increased risk of respiratory depression when taken with plaintiff’s other medications, and negligently failed to warn plaintiff of the risk of respiratory depression associated with the medications prescribed to plaintiff.

Plaintiff claimed that as a result of the defendant’s negligence, plaintiff suffered respiratory depression on the evening of August 31, 2010 which led to aspiration pneumonia and hypoxic ischemic brain injury.

The defendant contended that his prescriptions on August 31, 2010 complied with the standard of care and that the sole proximate cause of plaintiff’s injuries was plaintiff’s actions in taking more medication than prescribed by the defendant, either intentionally or unintentionally.

The defense relied upon evidence that showed that in the month leading up to her overdose, plaintiff had, unbeknownst to the defendant, obtained opioids and benzodiazepines from several doctors against the defendant’s instructions that plaintiff was to obtain all of her opiate and psychiatric medications only from him.

The defendant also argued that a chart created by plaintiff’s family, which documented that substantially more medication was missing from plaintiff’s prescription bottles than should have been missing, evidenced that plaintiff had taken a massive overdose of medications prescribed by both the defendant and other physicians.

The defendant further contended that the overdose incident did not cause plaintiff’s current cognitive deficits as evidenced by her initial return to baseline and subsequent progressive decline in behavioral and cognitive functioning. Rather, the defendant attributed her current condition to her multiple comorbidities and progressive dementia.

In closing arguments, plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award approximately $4.1 million. After approximately two hours of deliberations, including lunch, the jury found for the defendant.