PITTSBURGH – A civil court has overruled preliminary objections in a professional negligence lawsuit filed by a Pittsburgh man against his psychiatrist, who allegedly overprescribed oxycodone, resulting in his dependency and addiction to the drug.
In a Jan. 5 filing in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, plaintiff Regan DiCarlo sued defendants Kenneth Stanko, M.D.; Bloomfield Health Mart; Pharmacy, Inc.; Bloomfield Drug Store and James Koll, RPh. DiCarlo is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as lawyer fees.
In March 2012, DiCarlo was treated by Stanko for symptoms of mild depression, anxiety and insomnia and was prescribed oxycodone, Opana, and Zolpiedem after a brief evaluation and no counseling to "make him feel better,” he alleges.
It's the latest legal trouble for Stanko, who pleaded guilty on Jan. 20, 2017, to two felony counts of possession and distribution of oxycodone and health insurance fraud, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release. He was sentenced to a year in federal prison.
In May 2012, Stanko discontinued the Opana and Zolpiedem prescriptions and increased the oxycodone, prescribing about 3,000 tablets just in that year, it is alleged.
After it became difficult for DiCarlo to fill his prescription at multiple pharmacies due to his excess of prescriptions, Stanko told DiCarlo to fill them with Koll at Bloomfield Health Mart Pharmacy and Bloomfield Drug Store, according to the complaint. Koll also allowed DiCarlo to purchase the drug in excess of his prescription with cash, according to the complaint.
“For approximately three years, Mr. DiCarlo remained dependent upon and addicted to oxycodone, as a result of defendants, Dr. Stanko and RPh Koll, recklessly, knowingly, and intentionally prescribing and providing dangerously large amounts of the medication,” the filing states.
DiCarlo’s complaint states a series of actions and omissions from Stanko that led to his drug dependency, among other current and future issues. Stanko “showed reckless indifference,” which justifies “punitive damages against Dr. Stanko,” the complaint states.
In a Jan. 26 filing, Stanko listed preliminary objections to DiCarlo’s complaint, stating that it, “fails to state a claim for which punitive damages may be granted” and that the complaint “lacks sufficient specificity, as required by Pennsylvania law.” Stanko requested the “vague claims” be stricken for lack of specificity. The pharmacies and Koll then filed their own preliminary objections, alleging the complaint “doesn’t meet the threshold of ‘outrageousness,’ according to a March filing.
The court overruled objections by Stanko and the pharmacies, stating that, “Dr. Stanko’s argument is without merit because the complaint provides him with sufficient notice of the damages alleged,” and, “the plaintiff’s complaint, asserted against pharmacy defendants, easily rise to the level of recklessness and outrageousness.”
DiCarlo requested time to file an amended complaint, so he could include more specifics and correct defects.
Most recently in the case, Judge Robert Coleville ordered the plaintiff to respond to Stanko's interrogatories that seek background information on DiCarlo, such as whether he has ever sued anyone before and whether he is currently on medication.