Although it appears Adam Montgomery, a 27-year-old Lompoc construction worker, died of a heroin overdose in November 2011, Santa Barbara Judge Colleen Sterne ruled that two pharmacies that filled Montgomery’s prescriptions for numerous prescription painkillers prior to his death could be liable for civil penalties. Attorneys for the two pharmacies — the Medicine Shoppe and the San Ysidro Pharmacy — had argued Sterne should reject the claims brought against them by Montgomery’s parents, but the judge concluded there was enough of a factual dispute as to the role played by prescription medications in Montgomery’s demise.
The main target of that litigation, Dr. Julio Diaz, was arrested in January 2012 at his Milpas Street clinic during a raid orchestrated by officers with the Drug Enforcement Agency. Diaz, dubbed “the Candyman,” was the subject of multiple complaints by numerous Santa Barbara physicians for overprescribing pain medications, and 11 of his patients died of drug overdoses in the last five years of his practice. Montgomery had been a patient of Diaz’s from 2009 to 2011.
According to expert witnesses hired by Montgomery’s parents, the “excessive prescribing of controlled substances” by Diaz and dispensed by the two pharmacies led to “compulsive drug seeking and use” by Montgomery, contributing to his addiction and his high tolerance for opiates. Ultimately, they argued, it led Montgomery — “in an effort to satisfy his unremitting desire” — to seek out heroin. These experts also argued Montgomery tested positive for many prescription drugs at the time of his death, as well as heroin. Sterne’s ruling was procedural, meaning that the two pharmacies and their owners will remain included as defendants in a case scheduled for trial this September.