Mary Kay Scott and Joshua Bell recently tried a medical negligence case involving Methadone pain management. The jury deadlocked, but a high/low agreement resulted in payment of the low, and no retrial
The plaintiff died at home in bed on February 22, 2005, 26 hours after starting a Methadone prescription ordered by the defendant physician for pain management. The plaintiff had a long history of over-taking of pain medication, following two back surgeries. After the second back surgery, and treatment with multiple pain medications and a detoxification during an in-patient program, the plaintiff was started on Methadone. The plaintiff invoked the Dead Man’s Act to keep out testimony as to verbal instructions given to the patient as to when to begin taking his medication and how to titrate the medication. The defense was supported by a pain management specialist, an addiction medicine specialist and a pharmacologist. The pain management witness opined the standard of care was met if the medication was taken as written in the prescription. The testimony brought out at trial was that plaintiff was to take at most ten pills from the time the prescription was written, and there were twenty pills missing from the Methadone prescription in 26 hours. Evidence was brought in by the defense that the patient had other non-prescribed medications in his system. The case was defended based upon plaintiff failing to take his prescriptions as prescribed, and the inability of the plaintiff to prove, given the missing twenty pills, that the prescription was taken as prescribed. The pharmacology/toxicology expert opined the plaintiff ingested ten pills within the last four hours of his life. At the close of the evidence, counsel for the plaintiffs asked the jury to award an amount of money in excess of $7,000,000. As a result of the high/low agreement, the plaintiffs had to accept the low of $500,000. The jury deliberated 11 hours over 2 days, and was deadlocked.