Families of men killed in crash win $8.5M in case against methadone clinic

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The families of two men will get an $8.5 million payout from the clinic and doctor who prescribed the methadone to the driver who caused their deaths.

In what KBJR says is a "precedent-setting case,"the families of Mitchell Lengren and Zachary Gamache reached an agreement with Pinnacle Recovery Services of Brainerd and Dr. John Stroemer last week.

It follows a civil lawsuit stemming from an October 2012 crash: The pair died after a car driven by Vanessa Brigan crossed the center line and struck their vehicle on Highway 210 in Carlton County, the Moose Lake Star Gazette reported.

It emerged that Brigan, who is serving six years in prison for vehicular homicide, was under the influence of methadone at the time, and it had been prescribed by Dr. Stroemer at the Brainerd clinic.

According to FOX 21, Pinnacle is liable for $5.7 million of the damages and Dr. Stroemer $2.8 million, after they both allowed a judgement to be entered against them in St. Louis County finding them negligent.

KBJR says that as part of the agreement, the families will only attempt to collect judgement money from insurers.

It's thought to be the first successful case in Minnesota where the claim is that members of the public were harmed due to improper treatment given to a patient, FOX 21 notes.

The Lingren family will get 75 percent of the settlement since Lingren left behind a wife and kids.

The Star Tribune reported last year the lawsuit contended that Dr. Stroemer's methadone clinic should have known Brigan was abusing the drug because of needle marks on her arm, and should have stopped her driving the 100 miles home to Cloquet prior to the fatal crash.

The doctor was reprimanded by the Minnesota Board of Medicine in January 2015 after finding he prescribed excessive amounts of controlled substances without assessing the risks to patients, the newspaper notes.

Methadone is one of the chemical treatments for heroin addiction, but is itself addictive and can be abused by addicts, the National Institute on Drug Abuse says.

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