Proposed methadone clinic has ties to recently settled federal lawsuit

JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL) – An Asheville-based company that operates a methadone clinic in North Carolina and recently settled a multi-million dollar federal lawsuit has ties to a proposed methadone clinic in Johnson City.

According to New Path Treatment Center’s Certificate of Need application, one of the owners of the proposed Johnson City methadone clinic is the founder and managing member of Western Carolina Treatment Center in Asheville. Dr. Richard Sherman owns 28% of the applicant, according to the CON.

Sherman’s company, Western Carolina Treatment Center, settled a federal lawsuit in March stemming from a 2011 Carter County crash caused by a methadone patient, according to court records.

The lawsuit, filed by Gene Moore in 2012, alleged another driver crashed into his truck in Elizabethton within three hours of Western Carolina Treatment center prescribing that driver with a therapeutic dose of methadone in Asheville.

Moore’s attorney argues the man only once received a warning of the potential consequences of driving after receiving a dose several years prior at new patient orientation at the clinic.

“The only warning was there at the very beginning, at the orientation, which was years before this wreck and it was under the section for new patients,” he said.

He says that warning was insufficient.

“They knew that folks were driving back and forth to Tennessee and they were just turning them lose without any warning, without any supervision, really without any consideration of everybody else that lives around here,” Moore’s attorney Robert Bates said. “It’s a concern, because there are simply no safe procedures, safeguards to protect people driving and to protect their own patients.”

According to Bates, despite Moore’s truck being totaled and the man getting ejected from the vehicle, he only suffered a knee injury. However, he says the case was never about that injury. Instead, he says it was about the risk to the driving public.

“It was a safety concern for us and always was and it’s still a safety concern,” Bates said.

The official toxicology report showed the other driver tested positive for methadone and other substances, according to court documents. Records also revealed a toxicologist concluded that combination of drugs contributed to the driver’s “misoperation” of the vehicle.

However, the company refuted the claim. In court documents, the clinic’s attorney said the patient in question signed a statement warning him of possible dangers, a counselor identified no signs of impairment in the 40 minutes after the man received his dose and that an expert witness determined there was no evidence the driver was impaired or should have been expected to become impaired after he left the clinic.

Western Carolina Treatment Center’s attorney David Draper declined comment when asked about the settlement.

“I’m just not at liberty to discuss the client’s business,” Draper said.

Moore originally sued for $6.5 million. The settlement notice filed in federal court does not reveal how much he actually received.

Bates says the two sides entered a confidentiality agreement. However, at the least, he says the case should send a message.

“Our hope is and always was that it gets their attention, it gets these methadone clinics to put some type of safety policies and procedures in place,” Bates said.

In state court, according to the Carter County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office, the driver at fault, Dallas Ray Richardson, received a year probation for the crime of reckless endangerment. However, in federal court he did not receive any punishment.

We left a message for Dr. Sherman yesterday and shared our number with his attorney. We again reached out to the company’s attorney today. We have not heard back.

Copyright WJHL 2016. All rights reserved.

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