Clemons v. Miele
A doctor's affidavit that a decedent ingested medicine and drugs to address the pain and depression that result from a motor-vehicle accident can result in a genuine issue of material fact with respect to whether the motor-vehicle accident was a substantial factor in the decedent's death two months afterward from an overdose. On Dec. 15, 2009, the defendant, Carl Miele, allegedly collided with the plaintiff's decedent, Jessica Clemons. After the motor-vehicle accident, Jessica Clemons went to St. Mary's Hospital and was diagnosed with a contusion. Doctors prescribed Relafen and Lortab. Two months afterward, on Feb. 9, 2010, Clemons allegedly overdosed on drugs and passed away. The chief medical examiner found that the plaintiff's decedent ingested oxycodone, plus a generic form of Xanax and cocaine and concluded that "oxycodone toxicity" constituted the cause of death. The plaintiff estate administrator sued Miele, alleging that he was negligent and reckless, and that the plaintiff's decedent suffered blunt force traumatic injury, emotional distress, pain and suffering, destruction of her ability to carry on life's activities and death. The defendant moved for summary judgment on the plaintiff estate's wrongful-death count and argued that the decedent's ingestion of prescription medicine and cocaine in 2010 caused the decedent's death, as opposed to injuries from the 2009 motor-vehicle accident. The plaintiff objected and submitted the affidavit of a doctor, Dr. Michael Blue. Blue, who qualified as an expert witness, opined, "Based on my education, training and professional experience it is my opinion that, to a reasonable degree of medical probability, Jessica Clemons' death resulted from her ingestion of pain-mitigating and anti-anxiety medications which she consumed to address ongoing symptoms of pain and depression resulting from her December 15, 2009 motor vehicle collision." Genuine issues of material fact exist with respect to whether the decedent's injuries as a result of the 2009 motor-vehicle accident were a substantial factor in her 2010 death from an overdose. The court denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment.