In a Missouri medical malpractice case expected to reverberate nationwide among those trying to stem the tide of opioid abuse, a St. Louis jury in June imposed a $17.6 million verdict on behalf of a plaintiff represented by a trial team that included Johnny M. Simon ’15.
Simon practices at the Simon Law Firm in St. Louis with his father, John Simon, who was a chief litigator in the case. They represented Brian Koon, a city parks worker, who became addicted to prescription painkillers. Over the course of more than three years, Dr. Henry D. Walden prescribed some 37,000 pills—at one point 40 pills a day—for run-of-the mill lower back pain, levels that well exceeded the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control.
Johnny Simon said that, unlike the Massachusetts legislature, which has begun to take action against over-prescribing drugs like Oxycontin, Vicodin, and oxycodone, Missouri is the only state in the nation that doesn’t even have a prescription pill monitoring database.
As a result of Dr. Walden’s overprescribing, Mr. Koon “inevitably became a raging drug addict,” said Simon. “And his addiction destroyed his health, life, and family relationships. In short, his family was a victim of America’s opioid epidemic.”
The jury awarded $1.4 million to Koon, $1.2 million to his wife (they are divorcing), and $15 million in punitive damages against Walden and his employer, St. Louis University.
The outcome of the Koon case is attracting attention beyond Missouri, Simon said. “Hopefully, this verdict sends a message to medical providers across the country that these drugs are dangerous narcotics that can have devastating consequences on people’s lives—and that inappropriately prescribing these drugs will have serious consequences.”
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