Sensational Wrongful Death Verdict

A Rogue Pill Mill was found to be guilty of recklessly prescribing narcotics to a man who overdose and died. The $10.7 million verdict was a landmark decision because it is the first civil damage case in the United States against a “pill mill.’ Pill mills are described as pain management clinics where the physician prescribes narcotic pain pill with no adequate medical basis. The physician prescribes recurring prescriptions knowing, or having reason to know that the patients are seeking the drugs for recreational purposes because of their addiction. In this case, Dr. Maurice Conte was a pain management physician for the Family Medical Clinic in the Woodlands, a suburb of Houston, TX. He prescribed over 15,000 prescriptions of narcotic pill combinations in a relatively short period of time, including Xanax, Vicodin and Soma. There is no medical benefit to prescribing this combination of drugs other than for recreational drug use. The risk is enormous because this “cocktail of drugs” will kill patients due to causing one to go into a coma and die. Dr. Conte was the medical director who ran 17 “Pill Mill” clinics across Texas, and made tremendous profits from this practice. He would often write prescriptions while sitting in a downtown cigar bar without even seeing the patient. Evidence showed he would receive cash payments in return for signing hundreds of prescriptions that were brought to him by employees from his numerous clinics. In this case, he prescribed the pills to Mr. Skorpenske, who had sought the pills legitimately for back pain. He was not known to have any addiction. He went home, took the prescribed dose, then accidentally overdosed as the drugs overtook his mind. His family sued and the jury conservatively awarded 10,700,000.00. Attorney Joe Stephens and Tommy Hastings represented the family, two children and his mother. During trial, Mr. Conte refused to accept responsibility, but took the 5th amendment to every question that was asked of him. Evidence showed that the clinic advertised that they would prescribe pain medicine, and many convicted persons with drug convictions would travel long distances to obtain the illicit drugs. After law enforcement authorities refused to prosecute, Personal Injury Attorneys Joe Stephens and Tommy Hastings filed suit to seek justice for the family. The verdict was the largest medical malpractice verdict in the state. After verdict, collection efforts revealed that Mr. Conte had hidden his assets. Collection efforts are still ongoing. The case was filed in the 234th District Court of Harris County, Cause 2009 – 41648, Augusta Jackson, wrongful death beneficiary of Michael Skorpenske v. Maurice Conte, M.D., and others.