Marijuana doctor named in wrongful death lawsuit

April 27, 2011

Matthew Hurlbutt

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.


16 Comments

  1. Spirit Filled says:

    My opinion is simple and direct. Quit drinking alcohol, and using coke, the police would much prefer arresting a person high on pot. Much safer for them.
    I doubt very seriously if the young man had just smoked pot he would have bothered walking along the freeway. Takes too much energy.
    Hell it took me three hours to make the decision to fix my gate a few years ago. My buddy and I kept saying let’s go fix the gate then sitting seemed more important. Come to think of it that gate never did get fixed. Dr. Rees is one of my favorite Doctors. She cares.
    My heart goes out to the parents. Never a good thing to lose a child. God Bless.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  2. zaphod says:

    The suit against Rees is completely frivolous under proposition 215. . “The lawsuit claims Rees improperly prescribed their son medical marijuana even though he had no medical problems
    the doctor did not prescribe marijuana, prop.215, gives a person the right to ask a doctor/primary health provider for a written recommendation to use marijuana that is all. Deliberately vague and simple, so people can decide for themselves, drug company hate it law enforcement hate it courts hate HMOs hate insurance co hate 215 , only people benefit from it. Prop 215 lets people prescribe marijuana for themselves (if a doctor thinks it will do no harm) young man makes some wrong choices, how to cross the 101 was the difficult decision.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 2

    • sloslo says:

      Wow, “deliberately vague”? That’s supposed to be a good quality for a law regarding the use of a drug?

      If you really support letting people “self prescribe” marijuana, then why not extend that ability to a variety of other drugs? I need to get a signed prescription from a doctor to get allergy medication, even though using it certainly wouldn’t make me think crossing the 101 was a good idea.

      With the current laws, cases of prescription drug abuse (and deaths) are on the rise nationwide. Do we really want more laws that are “deliberately vague” and that let people “prescribe drugs for themselves”?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 11

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