Patient dies after clinic medical director prescribes dangerous drug combination

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Case in Point

April 19, 2011

Patient dies after clinic medical director prescribes dangerous drug combination 

The plaintiffs sued the clinic and others, alleging that the medical director routinely prescribed medication to patients without an examination and had been subject to a medical board investigation. The jury awarded $10.7 million, including $9 million in punitive damages. Jackson v. Conte.

Michael Skorpenske, 54, suffered from chronic back pain. He sought treatment at the Family Medi Clinic, where medical director Maurice Conte prescribed Vicodin, Xanax, and Soma. Two days later, Skorpenske died of respiratory failure. An autopsy revealed that he had a preexisting liver condition that predisposed him to central nervous system depression. He is survived by his mother and three adult children.

Skorpenske’s mother, individually and on behalf of his children, sued the clinic and its two owners; Conte; and Jimmy Moore Jr., the recruiter the owners retained to hire Conte. Suit alleged that Conte had prescribed a dangerous combination of drugs for Skorpenske without examining him. The plaintiffs charged that Conte routinely prescribed medication to patients without an examination and had been subject to a medical board investigation for prescribing nontherapeutic narcotics for cash. The plaintiffs argued that the clinic owners and Moore were aware of Conte’s history and were grossly negligent in hiring him and allowing him to practice. Suit did not claim lost income.

One of the owners settled before trial for $10,000. The jury awarded $10.7 million, apportioning liability at 65 percent to Conte, 30 percent to the clinic, and 5 percent to Moore. The award includes punitive damages of $8 million against Conte and $1 million against the clinic.

Citation: Jackson v. Conte, No. 2009 41648 (Tex., Harris Co. Jud. Dist. Jan. 18, 2011).

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ members Tommy R. Hastings and Joe B. Stephens, both of Houston.


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