The estate of cyclist Marika Stone has filed a $32 million lawsuit against the driver alleged to have run her down and killed her while high on prescription drugs.
The monetary damages sought from Shantel Lynn Witt, 41, might seem high, but are appropriate given the circumstances, according to attorney Nathan Steele, who represents Stone’s estate. The 38-year-old Stone was a Bend dentist and recently divorced mother of two young children.
“It is a shocking number,” Steele said. “But consider that this was a young doctor with a very successful practice, and the economic damages reflect a loss of income for the course of a lifetime.”
Steele said the dollar amount sought is likely to come down after he gets input from vocational and financial experts.
On the day she died, Dec. 30 of last year, Stone, an avid cyclist, was riding south on an open, flat section of Dodds Road in unincorporated Deschutes County east of Bend, following behind two other riders. Witt was heading the other way in a 2002 GMC Sierra pickup at speeds exceeding 50 mph, according to the lawsuit filed Friday in Deschutes County Circuit Court. Witt allegedly crossed the full length of the opposite lane, veering into the gravel, striking Stone and killing her instantly.
Stone’s helmet was “obliterated” by the impact, the lawsuit states.
Her body came to rest in a ditch beside the road.
Responding law enforcement officers say that after hitting Stone, Witt continued on the road a ways before stopping and driving back to the scene in reverse, the lawsuit states. Once there, Witt is alleged to have sworn at the presence of bicyclists on the road, and could be overheard on her phone telling a person that she believed she had just killed someone.
In the moments after the collision, Witt is described in the lawsuit as appearing glassy-eyed, lethargic and unable to track conversations. After getting out of her two-ton vehicle, the lawsuit states, she walked in a manner that “resembled a person walking on the deck of a moving boat or ship. She unnecessarily held her arms out to her sides as if she was anticipating a fall.”
Witt didn’t know what day it was, according to the lawsuit.
She refused a test for alcohol, then failed three field sobriety tests, according to the lawsuit, which also states she admitted to taking hydrocodone and soma, a muscle relaxer, before getting in her pickup to go shopping in Bend.
Witt was charged with first-degree manslaughter. Her trial is set for next year.
The wrongful death lawsuit claims that Witt was high on a trio of prescription drugs that together affect a human similar to heroin, or other illicit narcotics. And like heroin, the drug combination, known as the “Houston Cocktail” or the “Holy Trinity,” can be deadly.
“Defendant ingested various prescription medications that day including, but not limited to, a tranquilizer, a muscle relaxer, and an anti-anxiety drug,” the lawsuit states.
Much of the information about Witt’s medical history contained in the lawsuit came from the district attorney’s investigatory file on Witt. As a victim in this case, Stone’s family is entitled to view the file, according to Steele.
At the time of the collision, Witt was prescribed hydrocodone-acetaminophen, clonazepam, Carisprodol, Wellbutrin and Prozac, according to the lawsuit.
The suit opens the door for subsequent legal action against parties that may have supplied Witt with the prescriptions.
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