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Opioid Drugs

More Defendants Named in Opioid Wrongful Death Case

— January 6, 2021

Additional defendants named as alleged responsible parties in opioid case against Shantel Lynn Witt.

Clinicians in the Bend, Oregon medical community have been added as defendants in a wrongful death case filed against Shantel Lynn Witt, 44, who was high on both prescribed and nonprescribed drugs when she hit and killed a cyclist in 2017.  The victim, Marika Stone, 38 at the time, was a successful local dentist and mother of two who was on a ride with friends in the middle of the day.  A test of Witt’s blood showed she had roughly eleven medications in her system at the time of the crash, including Xanax prescribed for her dog.  She allegedly crossed the center line with her 2002 GMC Sierra, killing Stone instantly.

“The defense provided the state with veterinary records showing that Ms. Witt’s dog was given a prescription for Xanax two days before the crash,” prosecutors wrote in a previous filing, which claimed nearly a dozen of those pills were missing from the bottle.  Other medications Witt was high on included the opioid hydrocodone, and a muscle relaxer, Soma, and her own benzodiazepines.  The combination of drugs, referred to as the “Holy Trinity,” is especially deadly and has claimed the lives of several celebrities in recent years.  Officers also found a handgun and three empty beer cans in her vehicle.

More Defendants Named in Opioid Wrongful Death Case
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Additional defendants now named in the $34.5 million wrongful death lawsuit filed by Stone’s estate (including her husband, Jerry, two children, twin sister and parents), are physicians Kevin Rueter, Nancy Brennan and Laura Schweger, and clinics High Lakes Health Care, St. Charles Family Care, High Desert Personal Medicine and Mosaic Medical.  Albertsons and Walgreens are also on the defendant list.    Last year, Deschutes County Circuit Judge A. Michael Adler found Witt guilty of first-degree manslaughter, driving under the influence of intoxicants and reckless endangerment, and possession of a controlled substance.  She is currently serving time at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville.

The most recently wrongful death case filing alleges, in the mid-2000s, “Witt received a prescription for clonazepam, a benzodiazepine, for acute situational anxiety associated with traveling.”  The prescriber was her primary care provider, Nancy Brennan, with St. Charles Family Health. “In 2010,” it further alleges, “Brennan inexplicably doubled the prescription to 60 pills” each month.

It continues, “Between 2008 and 2016, Brennan overprescribed Witt with clonazepam in a manner inconsistent with the standard of care for osteopathic physicians.  Brennan knew or should have known that Witt’s long-term use of clonazepam would likely lead to dependency and misuse, including drug-seeking behaviors.”

In 2012, “Witt began seeing Schweger’s clinic, Optima Foot and Ankle, after having a toe amputated,” the lawsuit states. “Schweger knew Witt was already receiving clonazapam when Schweger prescribed her hydrocodone.  She initially prescribed Witt 40 pills to be used as needed but continued to refill the prescription.”

Although she confronted Witt about her misuse of prescription drugs over time, instead of working with her to taper her off, “Schweger continued to prescribe Witt potentially addictive opioids for another approximately eight months,” the suit contends.

Witt continued to obtain addictive drugs from the other parties named.  Then, likely amid widespread knowledge of the opioid epidemic and increased liability, Witt’s physicians began to taper her off of her medications.  Around that time, according to prosecutors, she began using her dog’s Xanax.  Still having access to her prescriptions, and then, to her canine’s medication, she consumed a deadly mix that ultimately led to Stone’s death.


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