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Drug-Dealer Allegations Added to Civil Suits Against Convicted Ex-Santa Barbara Doctor Julio Diaz

After disgraced former Santa Barbara doctor Julio Diaz was convicted on federal charges of overprescribing painkillers, four families suing him for personal injury or wrongful death have added another allegation: violating the state Drug Dealer Liability Act.

Dr. Julio Diaz was found guilty of 79 counts of overprescribing drugs to patients. (Noozhawk file photo)
Dr. Julio Diaz was found guilty of 79 counts of overprescribing drugs to patients. (Noozhawk file photo)

Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Colleen Sterne ruled that the plaintiffs could sue Diaz for violating the act, which allows those harmed by drug sales the right to sue the dealer for damages.

“Upon his conviction of dozens of counts of distribution of controlled substances, Dr. Diaz became potentially subject to the terms of the DDLA, in spite of the fact that the harm to plaintiffs arose from the writing of prescriptions by a medical doctor,” Sterne wrote in her ruling.

“As a physician who disregarded his professional duties and prescribed controlled substances without a legitimate medical purpose, Dr. Diaz was subject to criminal liability for unlawfully prescribing a controlled substance and for drug trafficking.”

Diaz operated a medical practice out of an office at 510 N. Milpas St. in Santa Barbara until he was arrested on Jan. 4, 2012, to face federal charges for prescribing “profound” doses of drugs, including strong painkillers, that led to 11 overdose deaths among his patients.

After entering and withdrawing a guilty plea, Diaz went to trial late last year and was found guilty of 79 counts of overprescribing.

U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney in December sentenced Diaz to 27 years in prison, which Diaz is serving at Lompoc Federal Penitentiary.

Diaz filed an appeal shortly after his conviction and opening briefs are due in June, according to Ann Wolf, the prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Three of the civil suits against Diaz allege wrongful death of former patients who died from overdose or complications from extended narcotic abuse, and one former patient is suing for personal injury.

Each patient went to Diaz for treatment of pain, usually after suffering injuries, and became addicted to the painkillers he overprescribed, according to the lawsuits.

Heidi and Robert Montgomery filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their 27-year-old son, Adam, who got addicted to the painkillers Diaz prescribed and died of complications from narcotics abuse in 2011, according to the civil suit.

“During the six weeks preceding his death, Adam Montgomery was prescribed a total of 2,087 pills, or an average of 63 pills per day,” the amended complaint states. “He was only 27 years old.

“Robert and Heidi begged Adam to stop taking the painkillers. He couldn’t. They begged defendant Diaz to stop prescribing the pills. He wouldn’t.”

Micaiah, Mishaela and Krista Meadows are suing for their father, Roscoe Steven Meadows, who died in 2009.

Meadows had a history of neck and back surgeries and in 2008 began treatment with Diaz, who started prescribing powerful and addictive pain medication, according to the amended complaint.

Jeffrey Dreyer is suing over the death of his wife, Elizabeth Shull, and alleges wrongful death due to medical malpractice.

Courtney Canter, a former patient, is suing for personal injury and damages. She started going to Diaz for pain management in 2009 and he began prescribing “highly addictive, dangerous medications in increasingly higher dosages over time,” according to the complaint document.

Diaz’s treatment was below the level of skill and knowledge that other reasonable doctors would use, she alleges.

Some of the cases initially named pharmacies and pharmacists in the lawsuits, but those portions have been settled.

Attorney Richard Collins of Santa Ana is representing the plaintiffs in all four related cases.

The Medical Board of California in November 2012 revoked Diaz’s license. Diaz was accused of gross negligence in the care and treatment of a patient, repeated negligent acts, incompetence, excessive prescribing, unprofessional conduct and failure to keep adequate records.

The Medical Board accusation, filed two months after Diaz’s arrest, catalogs the “clearly excessive amounts” of narcotic painkillers he prescribed to one patient, a woman identified only as J.H., over a 19-month period when she visited almost monthly.

Between April 6, 2009, and Nov. 8, 2010, Diaz “was negligent when he failed to address the patient’s addiction and/or abuse of narcotic analgesics, including Oxycontin, oxycodone and cocaine,” the documents state.

In a two-month period in 2010, an eight-month supply of Oxycontin was prescribed by Diaz and filled by the patient, according to the Medical Board.

On more than one occasion, Diaz injected her with morphine.

During a visit on July 20, 2010, the woman came in for a migraine and Diaz prescribed Dilaudid, according to the accusation. He then ordered a drug screen, which came back positive for cocaine.

Diaz reportedly didn’t address the positive test, but he did renew prescriptions for Oxycontin and wrote a new one for oxycodone.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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