Photo via Pixabay
Photo via Pixabay

A man who claims an anti-smoking medicine was a factor in his psychotic breakdown, leading him to gouge his eyes out while in jail, will have to present a better case in his lawsuit against the psychiatrist who prescribed the drug, a judge ruled Thursday.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Marc Marmaro said there were insufficient facts to support a general negligence claim against Dr. Philip Cogen in the lawsuit filed by Michael Shabis. Marmaro said the claim is too similar to another one filed against Cogen, alleging medical negligence.

“To the extent it is asserted against Dr. Cogen, the … cause of action for general negligence is duplicative of the first cause of action,” Marmaro wrote. “Plaintiff simply incorporates the preceding allegations, without setting forth a unique set of facts giving rise to a separate breach of the duty to exercise due care in the circumstances.”

Lawyers for Cogen maintained the general negligence claim was an attempt to circumvent the $250,000 cap the law places for pain and suffering stemming from medical negligence.

Shabsis’ lawsuit, filed in December 2014, was amended last month to add former Sheriff Lee Baca as a defendant. Shabsis’ lawyer, Michael Libman, said the injuries his client suffered “occurred on Baca’s watch.”

Also named as defendants are the University of California Board of Regents, Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA, where Cogen worked, Los Angeles County and Pfizer, which makes the anti-smoking medication Chantix.

In addition to negligence, the complaint alleges excessive force, battery and products liability.

Shabsis, described by his attorney as a talented artist, is seeking unspecified damages.

According to the lawsuit, Shabsis began using Chantix in September 2013 to break a smoking habit, with a prescription provided by Cogen. Four months later, Shabsis suffered a psychotic breakdown that led to him committing violent behavior toward his grandfather, the suit alleges.

The breakdown occurred “in part or in hole” because Shabsis was taking Chantix, according to the plaintiff’s court papers.

Shabsis was arrested and taken to the Twin Towers jail, where he was put in isolation despite being “in the midst of a severe manic episode,” the suit states. He says he became “delirious and delusional” while by himself in a cell.

“The lights  were constantly on and his screams of agony and despair were apparently unanswered,” the suit says.

The pain became so intense and the glare of the lights so disturbing that on Jan. 2, 2014, Shabsis used “his own hands and fingers to gouge out both his eyes as he believed he was in hell,” according to his lawsuit. “This grizzly event, in effect, left him without eyes and totally blind, screaming in pools of his own blood while in solitary confinement.”

Shabsis also suffered a fractured hip from a fall in custody, the suit states. Libman said his client was released after only a few days behind bars.

The suit alleges that Chantix was not the proper medication to prescribe “for persons with the mental vulnerabilities that plaintiff was afflicted with at the time of the incident,” yet Cogen did so anyway.

The judge scheduled a status conference for Aug. 8.

–City News Service 

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