Methadone Clinic Doctor Found Liable in Addict’s Car Wreck

A Minnesota doctor and his methadone clinic have admitted responsibility in an $8.5 million settlement over dispensing methadone to a patient with known methadone abuse signs. St. Paul criminal defense attorney Max Keller says that this highlights the challenges many addicts face in recovering from addiction problems.

The lawsuit stems from the case of Vanessa Brigan, a patient at the Pinnacle Methadone Clinic in Brainerd. After being dispensed methadone on the morning of October 1, 2012, Brigan injected the medication, which is used as a treatment for heroine addiction but can also be addictive. Brigan then drove her vehicle while under the influence of the drug. She is currently serving a six year sentence for causing an accident that morning that took the life of two people.

The victims’s families expressed a feeling of justice at receiving the ruling in their favor. Payment stemming from the ruling is being disputed by the clinic and doctor’s insurance underwriters, but even without the settlement money, the families hope that the ruling will help to highlight the dangers of lax prescription drug control. Increasing numbers of prescription pill abusers in the state continue to show weaknesses in the regulation of prescription drugs.

This case marks the first time that a doctor has admitted negligence in a case like this. Dr. John Stroemer’s Pinnacle Methadone Clinic dispensed the drug to their patient despite visible warning signs of addiction. These included needle marks on her arms and other key signs of abuse. Methadone clinics, while centers of treatment for a number of addictions, can also be misused by substance abusers. Weak supervision and dispensing practices can make them easy targets for heroine and opioid abusers.

St. Paul criminal defense attorney Max Keller says that this follows the patterns he sees in his daily experience defending clients accused of drug crimes. “There are many warning signs of addiction that go unnoticed. More often than not, defendants need treatment instead of jail time. We fight for their future so that they can get their lives back.”

He has won jury trial cases in misdemeanor and felony cases and in DWI’s and non-DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. He is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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