VERDICT/SETTLEMENT

Name of Case/County: Anonymous v. Anonymous

Facts/Liability:          

This case involves the mismanaged methadone treatment by a New Hampshire methadone clinic provided to a 19-year old drug addict, which resulted in him driving while impaired by the combined effects of methadone and marijuana and falling asleep at the wheel, running down our client while she was out for a Saturday morning jog.  Our client was a 24-year old female graduate student and athlete who had just completed the requirements for her Masters Degree in Education and had just received her first job offer as an elementary school teacher.  We brought suit against the driver and against the methadone clinic for their third party liability for this accident.

When the 19-year old driver presented to the methadone clinic in 2007, he was a struggling addict seeking comprehensive treatment for his disease of addiction, which he was told by the clinic would include counseling, educational groups, and intervention for his continued drug use. What he got from the methadone clinic was only a daily dose of methadone.  The driver was a patient of the methadone clinic for 15 months.  During that time, his urine routinely tested positive for marijuana, cocaine and opiates.  21 out of 22 drug tests during his fifteen months of treatment were positive for other illegal drugs.  The methadone clinic ignored these continued positive drug screens and never provided any intervention for the driver=s ongoing drug use and addictions, other than his daily dose of methadone.  During this time, the clinic knew that the defendant driver was driving to and from the clinic to get his methadone doses and that he was working nights and not sleeping before receiving his daily dose of methadone, a class II narcotic, which causes sedation.  The defendant clinic had policies that prevented doses from being given to patients impaired by other drugs and policies that allowed discharge from the program for continued drug use.  The clinic did not follow its own policies.  The defendant clinic was also subject to state regulations and its own internal policies requiring specific frequencies for counseling, educational groups and drug testing, which they failed to follow. 

The plaintiff alleged that had the defendant clinic provided the driver with the comprehensive addiction treatment services they advertised, the driver would not have been using marijuana on the day of the accident, he would not have been driving while impaired by the combined effects of the two drugs, and this accident would not have occurred.  The plaintiffs also alleged that had the defendants followed their own company policy and not dosed the driver while he was impaired by marijuana, he would not have been driving while impaired by the additive effects of the two drugs and this accident would not have occurred. Finally, the plaintiffs alleged that had the defendants determined that they could not properly treat the driver=s addictions and discharged him from treatment or referred him for a higher level of treatment pursuant to their policies, he would not have received his dose that morning and this accident would not have occurred. 

The plaintiff brought claims against the clinic and its medical director for professional negligence, third party liability, negligence per se and violations of the New Hampshire Consumer Protection Act.  The defendant clinic admitted negligence for the first six months of treatment but denied all other negligence and denied causation.  The defendant clinic also claimed that the defendant driver was the person at fault for this accident because he continued to use illegal drugs through treatment, he used illegal drugs the morning of the accident and he was behind the wheel of the vehicle that struck our client.  The plaintiff brought a negligence claim against the defendant driver as well. 

Injuries:

At the time of the accident, our client was jogging on the edge of a quiet roadway near a cemetery, alongside a chain link fence and facing oncoming traffic.  She saw the driver=s car coming off the roadway toward her and she could not get out of the way due to the fence enclosing the cemetery.  The car struck her legs, breaking the bones in her right leg and deranging her left knee.  The force of impact ejected her body from her shoes and threw her body onto the hood of the car.  Her face struck the windshield of the car, breaking the windshield and breaking almost all of the bones in her face.  Her body was then tossed into the air and onto the tines of the chain link fence where the metal tines ripped the flesh of her neck, back, buttocks and groin as her body was dragged for yards before falling onto the other side of the fence and landing lifeless in the cemetery.  Our client suffered multiple facial fractures including nasal and sinus fractures and orbital blowouts.  She fractured two ribs, as well as her right tibia and fibula, she destroyed her left ACL, PCL and posterolateral meniscus. 

Her face was so badly crushed that her scalp had to be opened from ear to ear to remove all of the crushed bone and insert metal plates.  Her face was reconstructed requiring implants around her eye orbits and the bridge of her nose, and wiring of her jaw.  She underwent multiple surgeries on her right leg and left knee, and all of the deep tissue lacerations on her back, inner thigh, hip and buttock had to be sewn shut. She was hospitalized for a month and at an inpatient rehabilitation center for another month.  She was discharged to home and underwent outpatient rehabilitation for the next 9 months.  She has 13 different scars, including massive keloid scarring zig zagging across her body and restricting her range of motion.  She cannot straighten her left leg and drags her left foot when she walks.  She wears an orthotic.  Hyperextension of her right leg has caused misalignment of her hips.  She wears two knee braces and will require at least one if not multiple knee replacements over her lifetime.  She has permanent gait impairment and walks with a significant limp, she cannot navigate stairs without difficulty and she suffers from chronic leg pain and fatigue.  Her prominent keloid scarring on the back half of her body will have to be revised through multiple procedures and radiation treatments.  She suffers from subclinical post traumatic stress disorder since going through this ordeal.  She has lost her independence, having to move back home with her parents to recover, and she lost all of her enjoyment of life through her athletic pursuits.  She is very self-conscious of her keloid scarring and has become socially withdrawn.  After three years of rehabilitation and recovery, she has returned to work full time in her chosen profession as an elementary school teacher.

Special Damages (if any):

Medical Bills:                                      $437,072

Future Medical Care:                      $645,158

Lost wages and earning capacity        $533,650

Total Economic Losses:                $1,615,880

Verdict/Settlement:  The case settled after suit was filed but prior to trial at a second mediation.  The total settlement for the direct negligence and the third party liability claims was $2,300,000.00.  The defendant driver contributed his $25,000 automobile policy to this settlement.  He had no other assets from which to recover and was otherwise judgment proof.  The plaintiff received $75,000 from her own auto insurance policy as underinsured motorist benefits.

Plaintiff=s Counsel:

Holly B. Haines, Esq.

Kevin F. Dugan, Esq.

Abramson, Brown & Dugan, PA

1819 Elm Street

Manchester, NH 03104

Defense Counsel (please include name and firm):

Anonymous

Insurance Carrier (if relevant):

Anonymous (Professional liability)

Progressive (Auto Liability)

Mt. Washington Assurance (Underinsured)

Date of Injury: 2008

Date of Verdict or Settlement: 2012