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So Attorney Tommy Hastings Takes the Case and Wins $10.7 Million

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Houston, TXNone of the local law enforcement agencies were taking action against a Houston doctor for medical malpractice who operated a "pill mill," so attorney Tommy Hastings said he would. "The Skorpenske family was very good about explaining what the problem is and how it affects all of us," says Hastings. "It was hard to look at the faces of the people in that family and tell them no."

In July of 2007, Michael Skorpenske made his first and only visit to a pain management clinic in the Houston area. He was suffering from pain associated with a motorcycle accident and a workplace fall.

The clinic doctor prescribed Skorpenske a potent combination of hydrocone, xanax and soma. Two days later, 54-year-old Skorpenske was dead from a drug overdose.

"There are hundreds of 'pill mills' operating in the area," says Hastings. "The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have identified Houston and various areas of Florida as being the biggest problem areas for this."

Pill mills, usually disguised as pain management clinics, are known for dispensing potent narcotics to drug seekers, usually with no real medical conditions.

Skorpenske's family was distressed when local authorities took no action against the clinic or the doctor who prescribed the drugs, 72-year-old Maurice Conte.

"The family went to the Drug Enforcement Agency, the District Attorney and various agencies, and nobody wanted to deal with it and no one would really listen. And they came to us, spoke to us and we agreed to take the case," says Hastings whose firm specializes in medical malpractice and personal injury.

Extremely Difficult Cases

"These are extremely difficult cases. It is almost always hard to get to the money because it is almost always done in cash. They are difficult because jurors are biased against people that use these places and the clinics pop up and disappear," Hastings adds.

Some Lucky Breaks

"We did all the investigation ourselves. It took a lot of man hours, we got some lucky breaks and we did a lot of hard work," says Hastings. "Some of the records managed to survive. We managed to get a couple of people to testify under oath about the records because they could be destroyed."

"We managed to find some prescriptions and even though the clinic was gone, we managed to find the name of the clinic owner," he says.

When it was all over, the jury awarded the Skorpenske family $10.7 million in damages. It is believed to be the first verdict against a "pill mill" for wrongful death caused by a combination of narcotics.

"I think it has always been a matter of principle for them, not a manner of money, and the message has been sent that they want to send," says Hastings.

Now, admits Hastings, comes the hard part. "The next problem will be tracking down the cash," he says. "We are trying to find where Dr. Conte squirreled it away."

Judging already from Hastings' success on the case, the money will be found.


Tommy Hastings is the founder and principle of the Hastings Law Firm. He is a graduate of the University of Houston Law Centre. The firm specializes in medical malpractice, employment law and personal injury claims. He believes in respecting hard-working people.

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READER COMMENTS

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Very cool case and unprecedented outcome. Tommy is a very tenacious attorney that truly loves helping people.

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