Wrongful death malpractice lawsuit filed against doctor following patient’s fentanyl overdose death

by Jim Orr

Thomas O’Brien, 55, became a patient of Steve Rogoff, M.D. in early 2011, complaining of chronic back pain from a previously diagnosed lumbar disk problem, according to a lawsuit recently filed in Hawaii. The suit alleges the Kauai physician prescribed Schedule II narcotics to O’Brien to the point of intoxication and overdose. The wrongful death lawsuit for medical malpractice over O’Brien’s fentanyl overdose death has been brought against Dr. Rogoff and Hale Lea Medicine.

According to the complaint, O’Brien was initially seeking to refill pain medication prescriptions he had obtained from another physician, but was looking for a new doctor. The initial consultation resulted in a prescription for Norco, a Schedule II opioid narcotic, even though the visit had not included testing or confirmation of complaints, according to the suit. Then, only two days later, Rogoff prescribed Valium for O’Brien’s pain attacks, without subsequent examinations, medically indicated tests or objective findings, according to the complaint.

The same basic relationship continued, with O’Brien being provided prescriptions for powerful painkillers with no indicative tests being performed. Eventually, O’Brien’s request to try a transdermal Fentanyl patch, a Schedule II opioid, was granted with a prescription, according to the allegations. The Fentanyl pain patch was supposedly justified to treat a chronic bunion condition, according to the complaint. O’Brien soon returned later saying he had wasted five patches trying to get them to adhere to his skin, the complain states. This time, Rogoff noted possible medication abuse for the short time duration and prescribed Norco, according the suit. However, only a month later, O’Brien allegedly returned to the clinic complaining of shingles and tooth pain and received more Fentanyl after saying he was out of patches because they fell off.

According to the lawsuit, O’Brien called Rogoff on several occasions to, for example, say he was travelling on the Mainland or to Canada and needed refills. The medical records indicate an increasing rate of consumption, and Rogoff even ended his care of O’Brien at one point, only to start prescribing again a week later, according to the complaint.

The prescriptions continued until February 2012, just over one year after O’Brien first saw Rogoff. The lawsuit alleges that the final prescription was for Fentanyl patches and that O’Brien was found dead of fentanyl intoxication—with two patches on his body—in Cook County, Illinois, on February 16, 2012.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson leads nation in handling fentanyl pain patch cases

Doctors have to be extremely careful, and follow established protocols, when prescribing multiple central nervous system depressants (sometimes abbreviated as “CNS depressants”) to the same patient. Tragically, doctors sometimes prescribe powerful drugs that are CNS depressants without adequately taking into account the patient’s prescriptions for other drugs that are also CNS depressants.

Sometimes doctors prescribe too many of these powerful painkillers, sometimes doctors prescribe these potent drugs in dosages that are too high, and sometimes doctors prescribe them with other drugs that can cause dangerous and even fatal drug interactions. When doctors fail to follow established protocols for prescribing these drugs, drug abuse, addiction, tolerance or overdose may be the result.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson are committed to helping patients and their families who have been affected by doctors who irresponsibly prescribe opioid painkillers and other potentially deadly drugs to their patients. Heygood, Orr & Pearson has represented numerous patients who have suffered complications from excessive painkiller prescriptions by a doctor or hospital. In fact, the lawyers at our firm have handled more cases involving the fentanyl pain patch than all other law firms in the country combined.

In connection with the hundreds of fentanyl pain patch cases that have been litigated by Heygood, Orr & Pearson on behalf of their clients, we have examined under oath hundreds of drug company executives, scientists, engineers, physicians and manufacturing workers. We have also retained the best expert witnesses in the country in the areas of toxicology, pathology, pharmaceutical manufacturing and patch technology. In addition, Heygood, Orr & Pearson has obtained millions of pages of documents from the drug companies related to Fentanyl patches, which have been reviewed, analyzed and catalogued. In doing so, our firm has amassed by far the most extensive library and collection of documents and depositions related to Fentanyl patches.

For more information about an opioid painkiller lawsuit and to find out if you qualify to file a case, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form located on this site.


* Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

** Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2014.

by Jim Orr

Jim Orr is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P focusing on business and personal injury litigation. Jim was selected multiple times to the Super Lawyers List and has tried 70+ cases to verdict.