Nursing home liable in overdose death of employee, lawsuit claims

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A California nursing home owner should be held liable in the drug overdose death of its long-time dietary supervisor because it failed to properly supervise the destruction of narcotics or maintain logs required by law, according to a lawsuit filed last week.

The adult children of Michelle Hughes are suing Pacific Christian Senior Services, owner of Atascadero Christian Community. Hughes was 48 years old when she died April 19, 2014, from a morphine overdose. The San Luis Obispo Superior Court lawsuit alleges a co-worker charged with destroying expired drugs gave morphine to Hughes. According to the complaint, the employee allegedly “either gave Hughes expired morphine she was supposed to destroy, or she substituted the expired morphine for non-expired morphine intended for patients,” according to published reports.

The family's attorney told the San Luis Obispo Tribune that Hughes was “suffering from incredible pain” from a neurological disease shortly before her death.

The employee who allegedly gave Hughes the drug was not named as a defendant in the suit, and a criminal investigation is reportedly not being pursued. Claims made in civil complaints only represent one side and have not yet been adjudicated in court. Pacific Christian Senior Services CEO Dan Busby was unavailable for comment at press time and a spokesperson declined comment.