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Kerns v. Hoppe

128 Nev. 910 (2012)

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Kerns v. Hoppe

Supreme Court of Nevada

128 Nev. 910 (2012)

Facts

Walter Kerns (plaintiff) was in multiple motorcycle accidents and suffered from intense knee pain. Kerns planned to have surgery but was receiving treatment to manage the pain until the surgery. Dr. Walter Hoppe, David Armitage, and Desert Trails Medical, Inc. (defendants) treated Kerns and prescribed interchanging painkillers, including Norco, OxyContin, Vicodin, and methadone. The prescriptions rotated in an attempt to avoid addiction to any one painkiller. However, the defendants eventually diagnosed Kerns with an addiction to OxyContin. The defendants required Kerns to sign an acknowledgement that it was illegal to obtain multiple prescriptions from various doctors and that obtaining multiple prescriptions could endanger his health. The acknowledgement also contained a promise that Kerns would not request or accept narcotics from any other medical provider. Unfortunately, Kerns did go to other doctors and obtain additional prescriptions for narcotics. Kerns died in his sleep from methadone intoxication. Stephanie Kerns, his widow, sued the defendants and the pharmacies that filled the prescriptions. The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that Kerns assumed the risk of his death by abusing the drugs prescribed to him. The trial court granted the motion, and Stephanie appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Lane, J.)

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