Wise County family sues physician, others in alleged overdose death

Stephen Igo • Jan 14, 2019 at 9:09 AM

WISE — The family of a Wise County woman who died of an alleged drug overdose in 2017 has filed a $2 million lawsuit in Wise County Circuit Court against a former Coeburn physician and others.

Filed by Madonna Lynn Hill, administrator of the estate of Cassandra Leigh Hill, the suit names as defendants Dr. Gurcharan S. Kanwal, Gurcharan & Kamaljit Kanwal Family, LP, Coeburn Hospital Clinic Inc. — described in the suit as a “fictitious” legal entity — Watauga Recovery Center, Wytheville, PC, and Watauga Recovery Centers.

The suit states Cassandra Leigh Hill died Jan. 11, 2017 in Wise County and that she was a patient of Kanwal and the other defendants from at least 2007 until her death. The suit asserts that during his care of Cassandra Hill, Kanwal prescribed opioid-derived medications containing buprenorphine such as Suboxone and Subutex.

“Dr. Kanwal knew or should have known, from the long course of his treatment of Ms. Hill, that she suffered from anxiety, depression and mood disorders that had led to her psychiatric treatment and civil commitment for suicidal ideations and that she was taking other medications that he prescribed such as Klonopin and Naproxen that can cause serious respiratory distress, especially when combined with buprenorphine,” the suit asserts.

“Despite the medical and psychiatric history of Ms. Hill, Dr. Kanwal continued to prescribe these dangerous medications to her and failed to properly monitor her treatment and condition.”

The suit also asserts the defendants “came under investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency in 2015 for allegedly prescribing medications without a valid medical purpose as part of an overall profit-driven, health care fraud scheme” and that in 2017 Kanwal “pleaded guilty to prescribing Hydrocodone and Ritalin without a valid medical purpose and to federal health care fraud charges.”

The suit asserts the defendants were negligent in their care of Hill by placing the deceased on buprenorphine and other medications “known to be highly addictive and dangerous and failed to adequately monitor her during the course of the same and without regard for her medical history or the risks associated therewith.”

The suit asserts Hill died from an overdose of medications prescribed by Kanwal and that her death “was directly and proximately caused by the breach of the duty of care Dr. Kanwal owed to her.”

The plaintiff seeks judgement against each of the defendants, jointly and severally, in the amount of $2 million, costs and fees, and other relief the court may deem fit.

The plaintiff is represented by Jeffrey L. Campbell of the Campbell Law Firm in Marion, and Kimberly C. Haugh of Abingdon.