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Hydrocodone and Xanax Overdose Resulting in Death | Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

Written by Tom Crosley
Catastrophic Personal Injury, Wrongful Death

The Crosley Law Firm just finished trying a tragic case in Corpus Christi, Texas. The case involved 18-year-old Brandon Garcia. Brandon was a smart young man who came from a good family. Unfortunately, Brandon had a problem. He was addicted to drugs. His drug of choice was Xanax.

Five days prior to his death, Brandon left a drug rehab facility near Austin, Texas, and returned home to Corpus Christi. He spent time with his family, and appeared clean and sober. However, on Monday morning he walked into Bayside Medical Clinic, an urgent care clinic in Corpus Christi. After a single, brief visit with Dr. Johnson (the owner of the clinic) he walked out with two prescriptions for large quantities of controlled substances. Brandon lied to Dr. Johnson and asked him to “refill” a nonexistent prescription for Xanax, explaining that he had missed a recent appointment with his psychiatrist. Dr. Johnson did nothing to verify that Brandon was even taking Xanax, despite acknowledging that he could have called the psychiatrist named by Brandon to check out Brandon’s story. Dr. Johnson wrote Brandon a prescription for one hundred twenty (120) one (1) milligram Xanax pills. By any standard measure, this is a large dose. Dr. Johnson also wrote Brandon Garcia a prescription for forty (40) pills of a powerful narcotic painkiller, Norco, which is a hydrocodone and acetaminophen mix containing ten (10) milligrams of hydrocodone, also a controlled substance, and three hundred twenty-five (325) milligrams of acetaminophen. The dose proscribed by Dr. Johnson is the highest that can be written for hydrocodone as a Schedule III drug. Taken in combination, hydrocodone and Xanax have synergistic, or additive, effects. This means that the two drugs together increase the effects on the body more than would be expected. They are both central nervous system depressants, and can lead to respiratory failure.

Brandon and his nearly 16-year-old friend took the drugs, probably seeking to get high. They were found dead the next morning.

A lawsuit was filed against Dr. Johnson and against CVS Pharmacy, which filled the unusual prescriptions, despite the teen’s odd behavior at the pharmacy when they showed up to fill the prescriptions. CVS entered into a confidential settlement agreement before trial, and the case proceeded to trial against Dr. Johnson.

Dr. Johnson admitted at trial that Xanax is the number one most abused drug in Corpus Christi, Texas—both among teens and adults—and that hydrocodone is probably the second or third most abused. In spite of this, Dr. Johnson admitted that he took no special precautions before writing the unusually large and dangerous combination of prescription drugs to Brandon. Dr. Johnson was sanctioned by the Texas Medical Board for his conduct leading to Brandon’s death. However, this fact was not admitted into evidence before the jury. Also, a physician’s assistant working for Dr. Johnson was arrested after Brandon’s death in connection with his alleged role in an illegal prescription drug ring in Corpus Christi. The physician’s assistant was never convicted of that charge, and relocated to the Austin, Texas area. Incredibly, Dr. Johnson claimed not to have any knowledge of the illegal behavior of the physician’s assistant. This fact, too, was not admitted into evidence and therefore was not considered by the jury for any purpose.

The defense strategy in the case was to do everything it could to blame Brandon for being a drug addict. Brandon’s parents filed the lawsuit to seek justice, and to try to prevent another tragedy like the one that befell their son. They were not interested in money, but rather in sending a message to prescribers of controlled substances that extra caution needs to be used, especially when prescribing dangerous drug combinations to teenagers.

After eight days of trial and a half a day of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defense. Although our clients were disappointed in the result, they still feel like they did the right thing by attempting to hold Dr. Johnson accountable for his role in Brandon’s death. The family never claimed that Brandon wasn’t also responsible. In fact, our position at trial was that Brandon and Dr. Johnson were each equally responsible for the cause of Brandon’s death.

This case represents a family taking a stand on principle, and trying to use the court system to make their community a safer place. We spent tens of thousands of dollars, and hundreds of hours of work, and although we did not obtain a victory in the courthouse, we feel this case was important, and may help to prevent a similar tragedy in the future, both by educating the parties involved and the community.

This case was highlighted on VerdictSearch.com, that content can be found here: Teen prescribed Xanax and hydrocodone overdosed.

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