A Texas jury has awarded $10.1 million to the family of a man who died of a drug overdose after being given a lethal cocktail by a doctor whose license was later revoked for running a “pill mill.”
The wrongful death lawsuit was brought by the family of Michael Skorpenske, of Conroe, Texas, who died on July 7, 2007, two days after receiving prescriptions of hydrocodone, xanax and soma from Dr. Maurice Conte.
The same combination of drugs, referred to as the “holy trinity,” was prescribed by Dr. Conte at least 3,800 times at 17 pain clinics in 2006 and 2007.
Conte’s medical license was revoked three days after Skorpenske’s death for running what some have referred to as a “pill mill.”
The lawsuit was brought by Skorpenske’s mother, Augusta Jackson, and his three children. In addition to Conte, the complaint also named Family Medi Clinic owner Melissa Martin, chiropractor Michael Kabzinski and Jimmy Moore, who recruited Conte for the clinic, as defendants.
Following trial last month, jurors found Conte to be grossly negligent and liable for $9.05 million. According to a report by the Houston Chronicle, Conte exercised his fifth amendment right against self-incrimination several times at trial and he did not appear in court when the verdict was read.
Martin, who ran the cash-only clinic with her husband, was also found guilty of gross negligence and ordered to pay about $745,000 for her involvement, and Moore was ordered to pay $85,000. Kabzinski settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.
According to a report released earlier this year by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more and more overdose deaths have been caused by prescription drugs over the last several years. In 2007, there were 38,371 drug overdose deaths reported in the U.S., outnumbering gun and alcohol-related deaths.