McNabola Law Group obtained a $1.125 million settlement for the family of a 55-year-old Illinois woman who died of an opioid overdose. The settlement was reached this month by partners Mark McNabola and Don McGarrah.
The lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, alleged numerous doctors overprescribed and mismanaged the woman’s pain medications — leading to her addiction and eventual death by overdose on Feb. 7, 2017.
“This was a very sad case,” McNabola Law Group partner Mark McNabola said. “Our client’s death could have been easily avoided if her physician and staff followed reporting requirements. For years, our nation’s opioid epidemic has created heightened awareness of the potential for addiction to painkillers. All the signs of addiction were present in this case, but the decedent’s primary care physician and the hospital staff continually missed opportunities for intervention and appropriate treatment.”
The decedent, a St. Charles mother of three adult children, suffered chronic knee pain that required medical treatment, including treatment for her pain.
In the months before her death, she called her doctor more than 80 times seeking prescription painkillers. She also visited multiple emergency rooms within the same Chicago-area hospital system. Despite this common and well recognized drug-seeking behavior, the decedent continued to receive prescriptions for numerous addictive medications, including opioids and benzodiazepines.
The hospital argued that if the decedent’s primary care physician had properly documented and reported the opioid prescriptions he issued, the hospital never would have provided the decedent with additional opioids. The prescriptions were not reported to a state-mandated database designed and intended to track how often and how much medication is provided to each patient.
At the time of her death, the decedent had four prescription opioids in her system.
Her daughter told news outlets that her mother visited emergency rooms weekly. Over the years, family members had raised concerns and specifically asked hospital staff to deny the decedent’s requests for prescription painkillers, her daughter said, but their pleas were ignored largely because the primary care physician failed to report to the mandatory database.
The lawsuit named as defendants the woman’s primary care physician and a Chicago-area hospital system.
McNabola and McGarrah obtained the $1.125 million settlement in November 2020. The settlement is subject to a confidentiality agreement limiting the information that can be disclosed about the decedent’s primary care physician and the Chicago-area hospital system. The settlement amount was limited because the primary care physician did not have adequate insurance coverage for this easily preventable situation. The Hon. Christopher Lawler of the Circuit Court of Cook County presided.
The result is notable because many opioid cases are successfully defended on the basis of warnings to patients about both the addictive nature of opioids and the risk of overdose. McNabola Law Group overcame this defense by successfully arguing the woman’s primary care physician overprescribed opioids, failed to properly supervise his patient and failed to conform to state-mandated reporting requirements.
“People don’t realize this pattern of over-prescription and addiction to pain killers can happen to anyone,” McNabola said. “These are normal people. Our client didn’t have a history of addiction, and to the outside world, she appeared normal. Physicians have a responsibility to carefully monitor opioid medications because they are so easily addictive. That is why physicians are required by law to report opioid prescriptions to the state-mandated database that is accessible to all health care providers.”
Before her death, the decedent spent much of her time caring for her adult son, who is developmentally disabled. The settlement will assist her family in continuing to attend to her son’s special needs.