Ham Lake Man Sues St. Paul Pain Center Over Opioid Addiction

Following a job accident that left Michael Faulhaber with persistent pain, he began seeing Dr. Samuel K. Yue in 1993.

As Faulhaber’s physical pain worsened, Yue, an anesthesiologist at a pain clinic in St. Paul, gave him increasingly high doses of opioids, which he alleges left him physically addicted, functionally crippled, and upset in a complaint. Attorneys defending the doctor argue that Faulhaber had emotional issues that had little to do with his prescription, and they’ve enlisted medical specialists to dispute whether his symptoms were genuinely proof of physical addiction.

This week, jurors in a Ramsey County courthouse are hearing lawyers for both sides question expert witnesses in one of Minnesota’s first patient-doctor medical negligence lawsuits concerning opioid addiction. Wednesday morning, the closing arguments were presented.

Minnesota is one of many states that began suing opioid producers such as Purdue Pharma in 2018, eventually expanding their claims to include the Sackler family and corporate consultants McKinsey & Co. Inc. Multi-state settlements with those and other businesses, including Johnson & Johnson, have garnered states billions of dollars to far, with Minnesota alone receiving more than $300 million. Additional state-led cases have been filed against opioid producers Insys Therapeutics Inc. and Mallinckrodt, both of which have declared bankruptcy in the face of intense legal pressure.

Individual doctors’ culpability for prescribing or overprescribing pain medicine to patients over the previous 20 years or more is less clear, according to both the law and common opinion.

There’s also the problem of neglecting to adequately explain the hazards of opioids, monitor those patients, or urge other kinds of pain management, all of which Faulhaber’s legal team has stated directly. They accuse Yue of deviating from industry pain treatment guidelines by seeking to address his patient’s psychological distress rather than his physical agony with opioids.

Faulhaber is represented by the Simon Law Firm in St. Louis, Missouri, which specializes in personal injury cases.

Yue, who is represented by the Minneapolis legal firm Arthur, Chapman, Kettering, Smetak and Pikala, has refuted any allegations of wrongdoing, claiming that his patient was treated in accordance with industry standards for informed consent.

Dr. David Schultz, an Edina-based pain specialist and adjunct professor in the University of Minnesota’s Department of Anesthesiology, testified as an expert witness for the defense on Monday, saying that his reading of medical records revealed that Faulhaber’s ailments tended to worsen with stress and setbacks in his personal life.

“I don’t agree that he was addicted to opioids,” Schultz told the courtroom. “He was diagnosed with substantial psychological dysfunction by a psychologist.”

While the trial was still proceeding on Tuesday, a counsel representing the business declined to speak further.

In March 2020, Faulhaber and his wife, Yvonne, sued the Minnesota Pain Center and Yue, its chief executive officer, as well as Walgreens Co., for their alleged roles in Faulhaber’s addiction, which they claimed left him suffering severe discomfort, functional disabilities, memory loss, and emotional distress. His wife, like Faulhaber, is seeking damages of up to $50,000 for the pain and suffering she has undergone as a result of her husband’s actions.

Walgreens’ attorneys then contended that there is no statute in Minnesota that holds pharmacists responsible for appropriately filling authorized prescriptions prescribed by a physician, and the pharmacy chain was dropped from the case in October.

In his case, Faulhaber claims that medical personnel at the facility began prescribing him opioid drugs to treat his pain in 2003 and continued to do so until at least 2016, administering “high and chronic amounts” of the medication, including oral opium and morphine.

If they decide Faulhaber’s suffering was caused directly by malpractice, the jury in downtown St. Paul will consider the proper amount of money to “fairly and appropriately compensate” Faulhaber and, separately, Yvonne for both past and future suffering.

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