Shareholders Clark Hudson and David Burke obtained a defense verdict for a Psychiatrist on May 27th, 2010 - after a four week jury trial. The case involved a patient with schizophrenia - who also demonstrated both drug seeking behavior for narcotic medications and failed to reliably take her psychotropic medications. The patient's mother was approved by a San Diego Superior Court to act as the patient's conservator. Part of the Defendant Doctor's treatment plan was for the conservator to set up a system with their local pharmacy whereby the patient would be denied access to all her medications. Instead, the conservator (mother) would pick up all necessary medications and give the medications as directed by the doctor.

For approximately two years the Defendant Doctor understood the system was in place, and the patient was effectively blocked from getting her medication. Statements from both the patient, and the conservator, that were documented in the medical record backed the doctor's understanding of a system being in place and working. On Thanksgiving Day 2007 the patient drank a bottle of Phenergan with Codeine Cough Syrup - which she subsequently vomited. The Defendant Doctor spoke to the conservator shortly after the Thanksgiving Day incident and was again assured the pharmacy block was in place.

On December 10th, 2007, the patient came to the Defendant Doctor's office with worsening symptoms of schizophrenia and paranoia. She specifically requested that medication be prescribed which had proven helpful in the past. After meeting with the patient, the Defendant Doctor gave a paper prescription to the patient for the medications - both benzodiazepines. The patient was instructed to have her conservator (mother) call when she got the paper prescriptions. The patient then went to her pharmacy and was allowed to pick up her medications (which were supposed to be blocked). The next day (12/11/07), the patient then went to another doctor's office and obtained a new bottle of Phenergan with Codeine Cough Syrup.

The Defendant Doctor requested office staff to follow up with the conservator since he had not been called, as he instructed the patient on the previous day. The staff called, and reached the patient, who indicated she had the prescriptions and would turn them over to her mom once she got home. A note to that effect was placed under the Doctor's door. The patient was ultimately found by her mother in respiratory and cardiac arrest after consuming 37 benzodiazepines and 2/3's of the bottle of cough syrup. Paramedics were able to restore a heart rate after approximately 20 minutes of resuscitative efforts. Unfortunately, the patient experiences a severe anoxic injury and is in a permanent vegetative state. The patient was 42 years old.

Pretrial the Plaintiff's Counsel demanded $17 million dollars to settle the case. A counteroffer of $1 million was made on behalf of the Doctor. Immediately prior to trial the Plaintiff settled with a co-defendant for $5 million dollars. The Plaintiff then lowered the demand to the Doctor for $2 million dollars. Another counteroffer for $1 million was extended to the Plaintiff - and again rejected. During the trial the Plaintiff lowered the demand to $1 million dollars, yet no further offer was made to the Plaintiff. The Defendant Doctor did not withdraw consent, but rather, was more than halfway through the four week trial, and therefore wanted to place the result in the hands of the jury. The Jury's verdict was 9-3 that the Defendant Doctor was not negligent.

Clark R. Hudson is a shareholder at Neil Dymott Hudson and concentrates his practice on the defense of healthcare professionals and general litigation.  Mr. Hudson may be reached at (619) 238-1712.

David P. Burke is a shareholder at Neil Dymott Hudson. His areas of practice include appellate law, the defense of healthcare professionals and general civil litigation. Mr. Burke may be reached at (619) 238-1712.