shantel witt

In this Feb. 8, 2019, file photo, Shantel Witt is taken into custody shortly after Deschutes County Circuit Court Judge A. Michael Adler announced his guilty verdict on all counts in the death of Bend cyclist Marika Stone.

A $34.5-million lawsuit brought by the estate of Marika Stone, a Bend cyclist killed by a drugged driver, has suffered major setbacks in its effort to recover from medical providers accused of enabling the prescription drug abuse that led to Stone’s death.

Bend woman Shantel Witt was found to have 11 prescribed and nonprescribed substances in her blood when she drove head-on into Stone on a county road east of Bend in 2017. Witt was convicted of first-degree manslaughter in Deschutes County Circuit Court in 2019.

Stone’s estate filed a wrongful-death claim against Witt in April 2018 in Deschutes County Circuit Court, and in a novel legal move, also took aim at a number of pharmacies and health service providers who wrote and filled Witt’s numerous prescriptions, including Walgreens, Albertsons, St. Charles Health System and Mosaic Medical clinic.

In June, a judge dismissed all defendants from the lawsuit except Witt, 45, who was unemployed at the time of her arrest and incarceration.

Nathan G. Steele, lawyer for the Stone family, has appealed several of the dismissals to the Oregon Court of Appeals. The wrongful death lawsuit is on hold pending an appellate ruling.

On the afternoon of Dec. 30, 2017, Stone and two friends were cycling single file toward Bend on Dodds Road. Witt, high on a combination of prescribed and nonprescribed pills, was driving a GMC Sierra in the opposite direction.

Stone, 38, died instantly, her friends coming inches from death as well.

The case was notable in part for Witt’s outrageous behavior in the immediate aftermath of the crash. Swaying, stumbling and slurring her words, she cursed Stone’s fellow riders and lamented Bend-area cyclists being “all over the f-----g road.”

Witt was charged with first-degree manslaughter for showing “extreme indifference” to human life before, during and after the crash.

At her criminal trial in late 2018, the depth of Witt’s prescription pill addiction came into clearer view. It was revealed in the weeks leading to the crash that several of Witt’s doctors and pharmacists spoke to her about tapering her off her current pill regime. Days after one doctor began a taper, Witt visited a veterinarian to secure Xanax for one of her German shepherds.

Toxicology tests revealed canine Xanax as one of the substances found in Witt’s blood.

In the end, Deschutes County Circuit Judge A. Michael Adler found Witt guilty of first-degree manslaughter and sentenced her to 12 years in prison.

Upon conclusion of the criminal trial, the paper began flying in the Witt lawsuit, as Steele aggressively added deep-pocketed defendants to the suit, according to court documents.

Steele produced medical records showing Witt was prescribed 60 pills of clonazepam, a central nervous system depressant, per month beginning in the mid-2000s, when Witt experienced acute anxiety related to travel. And when Witt had a toe amputated in 2012, she started a prescription for hydrocodone that was being filled up until the crash.

“It was reasonably foreseeable that a patient who has developed a substance use disorder associated with overprescribed addictive drugs ... will drive while impaired,” Steele wrote in 2018. “It was reasonably foreseeable that a patient who is impaired or who overdoses on their prescription drugs while driving will cause injury to other drivers or bicyclists.”

Earlier this year, Steele sought sanctions against Walgreens for allegedly not turning over records in a timely manner in response to one of his subpoenas. The motion was dismissed.

The defendant health care providers argued that in Oregon, for a party to recover damages for medical malpractice, there must be a doctor-patient relationship between the plaintiff and defendant.

Deschutes County Circuit Judge Jack Landau ultimately agreed and following a hearing in June, granted motions of dismissal from Walgreens, Albertsons, Central Oregon-based St. Charles Health System and the operators of the local health clinics Mosaic Medical, Optima Foot and Ankle, High Desert Personal Medicine and High Lakes Health Care. Former Bend family medicine Dr. Kevin Rueter was also dropped as a defendant.

Stone was a mother of two with her own successful dental practice in Bend: Mill Point Dental.

Her identical twin sister, Tansy Brown, a Bend physical therapist, told Witt at sentencing that she would grieve her sister’s loss, “more than you can ever understand.”

Witt is currently an inmate of the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville. Her earliest release date is Oct. 29, 2030.

In September, her husband of 27 years, Kelly, filed for divorce in Deschutes County Circuit Court citing irreconcilable differences.

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Reporter: 541-383-0325,

gandrews@bendbulletin.com

(3) comments

60184

Witt is the one who popped pills, Witt is the one and only one who got into the truck, Witt is the one and only one who crashed into Stone......It's time the perp takes responsibility for her actions...Steele is the typical ambulance chaser

KJ54

I don’t understand why her doctor/s, who approved the refills of most of this medication, are not culpable.

Transitory Inflation

+1

Way more culpability than srcipt fillers one would think.

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