Marijuana doctor named in wrongful death lawsuit

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April 27, 2011

The parents of a Cal Poly student who died after he was hit by a
truck while walking on U.S. Highway 101 in San Luis Obispo filed a
wrongful death lawsuit against three government agencies and a local
doctor. [Tribune]

On April 4, 2010 at about 1 a.m., Matthew Hurlbutt, 21, with cocaine,
alcohol and marijuana in his system was walking along the freeway
near the Santa Rosa intersection when a Toyota Tacoma driven by
Ronald Reinhardt, of Pismo Beach, struck him. Reinhardt said he did
not see the student prior to the collision.

Michelle and Lee Hurlbutt of Upland filed their wrongful death
lawsuit on March 29 against Caltrans, the county of San Luis Obispo,
city of San Luis Obispo and local doctor Atsuko Rees.

The lawsuit claims the agencies were negligent in maintaining the
area of the highway where Hurlbutt was struck and killed. Hurlbutt’s
parents contend the area was poorly lit, had no barriers or signs to
warn or prevent pedestrians from crossing the freeway.

In Hurlbutt’s pocket, at the time of his death, was a medical
marijuana card provided by doctor Rees. After questioning the parents
about their son’s health, county officials sent a request to the
state medical board to ask it to look into the doctor who has been
accused by former co-workers of running a medical marijuana mill.

The lawsuit claims Rees improperly prescribed their son medical
marijuana even though he had no medical problems, which altered his
judgment about walking across the freeway.

Rees is currently under investigation by several agencies, though at
this time there have been no disciplinary actions taken, according to
her former coworkers at HealthWorks in San Luis Obispo who claim
investigators have reviewed Rees’ patient files.

These former coworkers allege that Dr. Rees, a former co-owner of
HealthWorks who now practices at Rees Family Medical on Higuera
Street in San Luis Obispo, would sign off on the charts of as many as
60 to 70 patients on so-called “Marijuana Fridays” when she practiced
at HealthWorks.

Even though Dr. Rees saw patients of all ages at HealthWorks, the
bulk of her marijuana card clients fell between the ages of 15 and
25, with a large number visiting the clinic on, or within days of,
their 18th birthday.

A case management conference for Hurlbutt’s wrongful death suit is
scheduled for Aug. 2 in Judge Charles Crandall’s courtroom.

Marijuana doctor named in wrongful death lawsuit

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