Embattled doctor faces wrongful death suit
By ANGEL PACHECO, NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
A Santa Barbara doctor facing centuries in federal prison for the allegedly liberal use of his prescription pad must now contend with the parents of one of his late patients, who notified the physician Friday they intend to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Currently in a Santa Ana jail awaiting trial on federal charges, Dr. Julio Diaz received a notice of intent to sue from the law offices of Berger Kahn, representing Robert and Heidi Montgomery, said attorney Richard Collins.
The notice is required under California law before a lawsuit can be filed against a health care provider.
The Solvang couple contend Dr. Diaz failed to properly diagnose and treat their son, Adam Montgomery, 27, who died Nov. 25.
A Lompoc resident, Adam Montgomery, then 24, went to Dr. Diaz after suffering a construction injury, but the physician completely failed to meet the standard of care, Mr. Collins said.
Rather than assessing risk of substance abuse and addiction, Dr. Diaz simply wrote prescription after prescription for Adam Montgomery, Mr. Collins said.
In the six weeks before Adam Montgomery’s death, Dr. Diaz prescribed him some 2,087 pills, averaging out to 63 a day.
“He’s torn a hole in their heart,” Mr. Collins said of his clients’ suffering.
If the matter isn’t settled in 90 days, Mr. Collins plans to file a wrongful death lawsuit, likely in Santa Barbara County, against Dr. Diaz, who operated the Family Medical Clinic at 510 N. Milpas St. until his Jan. 4 arrest.
In addition to funeral and burial costs, damages would include loss of support and gifts to the parents, as well as Adam’s “care and comfort.”
“You lose that person’s love, their affection,” said Mr. Collins. “That’s a number only a jury can come up with.”
In the notice to Dr. Diaz, Mr. Collins wrote the Montgomerys will “allege and prove that your professional negligence was the proximate cause of Adam Montgomery’s death, extinguishing a young life with so many milestones that will never be marked and so many memories that will never be.”
An affidavit in support of Dr. Diaz’s arrest connects him to several patients who were abusing prescriptions, and more than 10 drug overdose deaths.
Federal authorities have filed allegations in connection with prescribing two patients large amounts of pills containing various controlled substances. The alleged crimes span 2008-2010.
On Nov. 15, 2010, within Santa Barbara County, Dr. Diaz allegedly distributed and caused the distribution of 375 pills to a patient identified as “C.A.,” and did the same with 240 pills the following day, according to the indictment. The pills included oxycodone, methadone, hydrocodone and alprazolam.
Within Santa Barbara and Orange counties, the doctor allegedly distributed or caused the distribution of nearly 500 pills in less than a year to a 19-year-old identified as “C.S.” who, on Nov. 25, 2010, received a total of 210 pills. The medications included oxycodone, hydromorphone and alprazolam, according to the indictment.
Dr. Diaz is charged with five counts in connection with C.S., and because the patient was under 21 at the time, each count carries a possible sentence of 40 years in federal prison. In the last count related to C.S., the patient was 20 years old.
If convicted of all counts, 63-year-old Dr. Diaz could be sentenced to 340 years in federal prison.