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Minnesota Pain Center, Walgreens responsible for Ham Lake man’s opioid addiction, lawsuit says

ST. PAUL — A Ham Lake man is suing the Minnesota Pain Center and Walgreens Co. for the roles he claims they played in his eventual development of an opioid addiction.

Michael Faulhaber and his wife, Yvonne Faulhaber, are seeking more than $50,000 in damages to account for the pain and suffering they’ve endured as a result of his addiction, and to offset money they’ve spent treating it, according to a civil complaint filed Tuesday, Feb. 18, in Ramsey County District Court.

David Hutchinson, a longtime Twin Cities defense attorney who has represented hospitals, clinics and doctors in malpractice suits, said that while he’s heard of similar lawsuits filed nationally, this is the first of its kind he’s aware of in Minnesota.

Faulhaber claims that medical staff at the center started prescribing him opioid medications to manage his pain back in 2003, and continued prescribing the medication — including high doses and quantities of oral opium and morphine — through at least 2016.

His doctor, Dr. Samual K. Yue, increased his dosages over time to “dangerous levels” without considering or warning Faulhaber of the high risks the drugs carried for addiction, or offering him “any alternative treatments to alleviate his pain,” the suit says.

Faulhaber filled his prescriptions at a Walgreens Store in Coon Rapids.

Overtime, Faulhaber became addicted to the drugs, and he maintains both the Minnesota Pain Center and Walgreens are to blame, the suit says.

Specifically, he blames his doctor for “negligent overmedication” and for failing to “evaluate or recognize” his addiction and substance abuse disorder, among other oversights.

Walgreens, alternatively, failed to stop filling his prescriptions despite knowing of his addiction and “negligently dispensing medications that caused (him) to be overmedicated,” according to the suit.

Subsequently, Faulhaber has suffered from an array of bodily and mental damages, the suit continues, including “severe” discomfort and pain, functional disabilities, memory loss, emotional distress and loss of enjoyment of life.

His wife is also seeking damages upward of $50,000 for the pain and suffering she’s endured on account of her husband’s addiction.

Neither staff at the Pain Management Center nor the attorney representing Walgreens in the case, Brian Wood, returned calls for comment. However, Wood filed a motion in Ramsey County District Court shortly after the suit was filed seeking its dismissal, according to the court document.

Woods co-counsel, Michael Burke, filed a memorandum of law to support the request, which states, among other things, that there is “no authority in Minnesota holding that a pharmacist is negligent when its pharmacists accurately fill valid prescriptions ordered by a physician and supply those prescriptions drugs to the patient.”

It goes on to point to case-law from other states that indicates physicians, not pharmacists, have the responsibility of ensuring that patients know the risks associated with certain medications.

An accompanying affidavit includes a copy of a recent Star Tribune article that highlights the work of a woman living with chronic pain who believes “the pendulum has swung too far in reaction to the opioid epidemic,” and that some doctors are now overly cautious about prescribing pain medications to people who desperately need it

No attorney was listed for the Pain Management Center in court records.