Marijuana doctor named in wrongful death lawsuit
April 27, 2011
The parents of a Cal Poly student who died after he was hit by a truck while walking on U.S. Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo filed a wrongful death lawsuit against three government agencies and a local doctor. [Tribune]
On April 4, 2010 at about 1 a.m., Matthew Hurlbutt, 21, with cocaine, alcohol and marijuana in his system was walking along the freeway near the Santa Rosa intersection when a Toyota Tacoma driven by Ronald Reinhardt, of Pismo Beach, struck him. Reinhardt said he did not see the student prior to the collision.
Michelle and Lee Hurlbutt of Upland filed their wrongful death lawsuit on March 29 against Caltrans, the county of San Luis Obispo, city of San Luis Obispo and local doctor Atsuko Rees.
The lawsuit claims the agencies were negligent in maintaining the area of the highway where Hurlbutt was struck and killed. Hurlbutt’s parents contend the area was poorly lit, had no barriers or signs to warn or prevent pedestrians from crossing the freeway.
In Hurlbutt’s pocket, at the time of his death, was a medical marijuana card provided by doctor Rees. After questioning the parents about their son’s health, county officials sent a request to the state medical board to ask it to look into the doctor who has been accused by former co-workers of running a medical marijuana mill.
The lawsuit claims Rees improperly prescribed their son medical marijuana even though he had no medical problems, which altered his judgment about walking across the freeway.
Rees is currently under investigation by several agencies, though at this time there have been no disciplinary actions taken, according to her former coworkers at HealthWorks in San Luis Obispo who claim investigators have reviewed Rees’ patient files.
These former coworkers allege that Dr. Rees, a former co-owner of HealthWorks who now practices at Rees Family Medical on Higuera Street in San Luis Obispo, would sign off on the charts of as many as 60 to 70 patients on so-called “Marijuana Fridays” when she practiced at HealthWorks.
Even though Dr. Rees saw patients of all ages at HealthWorks, the bulk of her marijuana card clients fell between the ages of 15 and 25, with a large number visiting the clinic on, or within days of, their 18th birthday.
A case management conference for Hurlbutt’s wrongful death suit is scheduled for Aug. 2 in Judge Charles Crandall’s courtroom.