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.

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The National Cancer Institute, a division of the US National Institue for Health, aka “the government”, has FINALLY made a stance on the health benefits and cancer fighting properties of cannabis and cannabanoids. Here is the link to the website. Read for yourselves:

It is worthy to note, however, that the verbage was changed from the original posting to what you see now. Prior to review of text posted on the NCI website, the posting once indicated “In the practice of integrative oncology, the health care provider may recommend medicinal Cannabis not only for symptom management but also for its possible direct antitumor effect”. For reasons to satisfy the government, the modification to the website was made to reflect “Though no relevant surveys of practice patterns exist, it appears that physicians caring for cancer patients who prescribe medicinal Cannabis predominantly do so for symptom management.” The reason for the modification is obvious. The government cannot dispute its own findings but can “manage” what is stated. And apparently has.

I wanted to share this information because there are many, MANY people who feel as I did prior to my mother’s death from breast cancer, that there is absolutely no medical reason to smoke pot. Hopefully, this will be a wakeup call to those who make change.

Anyone that would give a dislike to the above post must be a cop, da, judge, or another blood sucking government worker that wants to continue to ignore the benefits of mmj. Ignorant should be your middle names.

It seems to me if anybody has grounds to file a frivilous lawsuit it would be Ronald Reinhart who was driving the Toyota Tacoma!

He has probably suffered emotionally on a grand scale after hitting this very irresponsible ADULT who was on a trifecta of drugs!

Maybe he should sue Mr. and Mrs. Hurlbutt for raising their son so poorly that he was a drug addict which ultimately caused pain and suffering to Mr. Reinhart!

Also maybe Toyota should be sued because they made the truck and Exon because they provided the gasoline that powered the truck And sue the SLOPD for NOT arresting him for being drunk in public and sue….

But alas, the government agencies will PAY, probably settle out of court… it’s not their money that they love to deficit spend!

When I read this in the paper this morning my first thought, as always, was here we go again. What is it with all the MORONS and lack of something called PERSONNEL RESPONSIBILTY!!???

This wasn’t a child. It was a man who made his OWN decision of what to ingest in his body. Nobody forced him. He went to the clinic to get the pot. My guess is he had to lie about a condition to get the pot. He was understanding the whole way of what he was doing. He paid for the personnel consequences with his life. It was a terrible thing but he made it. Let’s stop all the B.S. lawsuits and lay the blame where it belongs. It is with the young man in the ground. Nobody else.

From a legal perspective, it appears Mr. Hurlbutt’s family failed to state a cause of action. Causation needs to be shown to file a wrongful death claim against Caltrans, the city, the county, and Dr. Rees. None of the parties actually owe a duty to protect someone like Mr. Hurlbutt who walks along a freeway while intoxicated. None of the parties actually owe a duty to someone who temporarily and willingly deprives themselves of the capacity to monitor their own personal safety.

Trying to attribute blame for voluntary intoxication is not worthy of the court. Mr. Hurlbutt had three substances in his system: marijuana, cocaine, and alcohol. The family could assert a claim of negligence — not wrongful death — against Dr. Rees if, for example, they could show that the marijuana was a “substantial factor” in the injury that resulted in the death of their son. The problem with that is twofold.

The burden is on the plaintiff to show that the cocaine and alcohol consumed by Mr. Hurlbutt did not contribute to his impaired judgment as much as marijuana, thus marijuana is the “substantial factor.” That would be difficult to prove even with expert witnesses.

Additionally, one can argue that the “substantial factor” present was the Toyota Tacoma driven by Mr. Reinhardt. The vehicular injury from the Tacoma was what broke the chain of causation, and that bars recovery for damages from the doctor.

In short, the defending attorneys can easily file a motion of summary judgment, and dismiss the suit.

This would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

Drunk high on cocaine blames Doctor for marijuana prescription. No no no, it wasn’t the alcohol. No, no, no, it wasn’t the cocaine. No, no, no, I have no responsibility and no free will. Yes, yes, yes, it was the medical marijuana which by the way I asked for. And I swear I took no more than prescribed and I swear it really was the prescribed marijuana and not my friend Jimmy’s Humbolt stash. Even though I take and have access to illegal drugs I swear it was the prescribed drugs that I took that made me do it. Give me money. Lots of money. I don’t care about other people’s insurance costs due to med mal insurance costs going through the roof because of ridiculous lawsuits.

The lawyer who filed this action is so clueless it’s difficult to believe it’s a real case.

You bring up a great point.

Some medical marijuana patients have this misconception that any marijuana they smoke is legal — so they’ll buy some from a friend or a dealer, and evade having to pay top dollar for medical grade marijuana. For all we know, Mr. Hurlbutt could have smoked marijuana that wasn’t the byproduct of his medical marijuana access.

It simply becomes harder and harder to prove causation. While my heart goes out to the Hurlbutt family, I cannot agree with their taxpayer dollar-depleting litigation, I hope they can withdraw their pleading and focus instead on educating parents about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

There were two criminal acts in this story; 1) The public intoxication of young Mr. Hurlbutt, and 2) the frivolous lawsuit filed by Hurlbutt’s law firm. Its a shame the parents had no idea just how their son was living his short life, but no one except the deceased forced all those chemicals into his system. The expression of shock and grief should not be exercised at the expense of the courts.

Citing Dr. Rees as a defendant is a bit like citing the maker of the sneakers young Mr. Hurlbutt was wearing at the time of the collision, as they ‘enabled him to arrive at an unsafe location which proved harmful to his health’. Mr. and Mrs. Hurlbutt – If you truly loved your son, drop the silly suit and use the funds otherwise enriching an ambulance-chasing lawyer to educate young adults just how hazardous using these kinds of drugs (alcohol included) can be.

I wonder who the slime ball attorney is that’s going after this to line their pocket?

Okay I’m going to say it’s more the parent’s fault then the doctor’s, simple put the doctor probably saw him for an hour max, the parents spend 18 years raising him, maybe they should of went over how to cross the street.

I feel terrible for this family. But they need to stop this. Are they going to sue the store that he bought the booze from? This is a matter of personal responsibility. I’m sorry that their son died but it wasn’t because of Caltrans, Dr. Rees or the countiy. An adult made a choice to be impaired and then walk around intoxicated, the only person to blame is thier son. I know that sounds cold and I’ll catch h@ll for it but that’s how I feel. I’m not saying he was a bad kid, my gosh when I think of things that I did when I was younger I’m very grateful to still be around. But we need to take responsibility for our actions in cases like this. I’m sorry to say that their son screwed up, he made a bad choice.

Ahhhh yes…WEED…it’s so harmless!

Now, just gotta love the lawsuits! It’s everybody’s fault but the fool that ingested all that good stuff into his body.

He also had coke and alcohol in his system, the last thing he had to worry about was the pot. Sit in a room with pot heads and then sit in a room of drunks, see which ones would be more of a danger to themselves.