Four file lawsuit against Vancouver pain clinic

Plaintiffs say excessive painkiller prescriptions caused severe pain, death

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: January 7, 2011, 8:09 PM

 

Four plaintiffs on Friday filed a wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit against a Vancouver pain clinic, alleging it negligently overprescribed narcotics to patients, resulting in addiction and withdrawal, and in several instances, death.

The Portland law firm Kafoury & McDougal filed the suit on behalf of the families of Deborah Reid, 42, and Karen Stransky, 64, as well as plaintiffs Tina Wright, 47, and Malvena Goetz, 59. All are residents of the Vancouver area.

The suit was filed in Clark County Superior Court. It names as defendants Kelly Bell, Penny Steers and Scott Pecora, nurse practitioners of the Payette Clinic, now named the Walnut Grove Medical & Mental Health Clinic.

The complaint alleges the clinic “grossly” overprescribed narcotics to the plaintiffs while they were patients and ignored warning signs of serious health risks. Reid and Stransky died as a result, attorneys said, and Wright and Goetz suffered severe withdrawal symptoms and addiction.

The attorneys allege there were six other overdose deaths in 2007 and 2008 tied to the clinic.

“Payette Clinic practitioners continued prescribing large quantities of controlled substances even after they were aware of at least six deaths of patients from their clinic and after numerous doctors, nurses, pharmacists and family members of patients had complained about the excessive quantity of drugs being prescribed,” states the suit signed by attorney Linda Williams.

Attempts to reach attorneys for the defendants and the clinic itself Friday were unsuccessful.

In early 2009, complaints were made to the Washington State Department of Health and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which both launched separate investigations.

As a result of the Department of Health investigation, Bell and staff were ordered in January 2010 to forfeit their licenses to prescribe narcotics for two years.

The complaint alleges Reid died Jan. 8, 2008, from a drug overdose as a result of taking opioids prescribed by the clinic. On May 30, 2009, Stransky died of an overdose under similar circumstances.

Wright became a Payette patient in October 2006, according to the lawsuit, receiving treatment there until March 2009. Goetz was a patient from December 2005 until March 2009.

Wright and Goetz were “damaged” as a result of being overprescribed narcotics, the suit states.

The suit doesn’t specify the medical reasons for the plaintiffs’ care or the narcotics and dosages they were prescribed.

Plaintiffs are seeking economic and noneconomic damages to be determined at trial. No amount was specified in the suit.

The complaint is the latest fallout surrounding the clinic, which drew controversy after the highly publicized December 2008 overdose death of an Oregon teen was linked to Payette. The teen, Rachel Daggett, had been smoking an oxycodone pill prescribed to a patient there.

A wrongful death suit in her case is pending in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

In spring 2009, hundreds of Payette patients, suddenly cut off from their opioid prescriptions, swarmed hospitals and urgent care centers, causing what some physicians called a public health crisis.

Also, two defendants charged in Clark County in a rash of pharmacy robberies for painkillers in 2009 and 2010 were tied to the clinic.

Laura McVicker: 360-735-4516 or laura.mcvicker@columbian.com.