Judge rules fentanyl overdose lawsuit should go to jury for trial

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by Heygood Orr and Pearson

A federal judge has ruled that a jury should be allowed to decide whether the manufacturers of a generic fentanyl pain patch should be held liable for the death of a man who died from an overdose of the drug. William Acree died in his sleep after being prescribed a fentanyl patch to treat chronic pain from a car accident.

According to the fentanyl lawsuit filed against Watson Pharmaceuticals, Acree put a fentanyl patch on his arm one night in January 2009 before going to sleep. The next morning, Acree was found dead by his son after suffering a fentanyl overdose in his sleep. According to medical examiners, Acree had 23.6 nanograms per milliliter of fentanyl in his bloodstream at the time of his death, almost eight times the expected level of 3.1 ng/ml.

However, because the patch that Acree was wearing at the time of his death was accidentally discarded by paramedics, Watson argued that there was no way for Acree’s family to prove that the patch was defective. The company also argued that Acree’s other medical problems, including asthma and gout, may have contributed to his death.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly rejected these arguments, stating that the concentration of fentanyl that was found in his bloodstream combined with knowledge about the dangers of the fentanyl patch could allow Acree’s lawyers to prove that the pain patch was the cause of his death. Judge Kennelly’s ordered the case to go to a jury in order to decide whether Watson is liable for Acree’s death.

If a loved one died from an accidental prescription drug overdose, including fentanyl, you may be able to obtain compensation from the doctor who prescribed the drugs. The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have handled dozens of lawsuits involving drug overdose deaths, and are available for a free legal consultation about your case. To find out if you are eligible, call us toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or fill out our free online case evaluation form, and one of our representatives will contact you for more information.