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Family of Bel Air woman killed in crash files suit against drug treatment center

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The family of a 64-year-old Bel Air woman killed in a car accident in July 2011 has filed suit against a Belcamp substance abuse treatment center, asking for $20 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

In the suit, filed Oct. 3 in Harford County Circuit Court, the husband, mother and two sons of Carolyn DiCocco are claiming the center was negligent in testing 28-year-old Nicole Ashley Albers for drugs before she drove north on Route 543 July 21, 2011, crossed the center line and struck a vehicle driven by Albert DiCocco, of Bel Air, and killing Mrs. DiCocco.

"The lawsuit, filed by the law firm of Parker, Pallett & Slezak, P.A., on behalf of Albert DiCocco (husband of the deceased), her two sons Robert DiCocco and Mark DiCocco, and her mother Margaret Borkowski, alleges that the [Medication Assisted Treatment Technologies] clinic either failed to adequately test Albers as required by law, to rule out the presence of Xanax and other drugs in her system, so that methadone could be safely administered, or ignored the results of the tests it did give her," a press release sent on behalf of the family read. "This failure caused Albers' impairment, which directly caused the accident in which Mrs. DiCocco was killed."

Testing of Albers' blood after the accident showed Alprazolam, a form of Xanax, methadone and amphetamine in her system.

Albers pleaded guilty to a single count of manslaughter by motor vehicle in late August and will serve five years in prison.

Glass Health Programs Inc. is also listed as a defendant on the lawsuit, naming it as the successor in interest to Medication Assisted Treatment Technologies, or MATT; Glass Health Programs recently bought the clinic.

In the press release e-mailed by Michael I. Blum, president of Michael Blum Associates Inc., the family's attorney Karmen Slezak states, "The negligence of the MATT Clinic was a proximate cause of the death of Mrs. DiCocco."

"The MATT Clinic has a duty to operate in such as way to protect its patients and the public at large from reasonably recognized and foreseeable consequences of giving methadone to its patients. Since the interaction of Xanax and methadone are well-known and well-publicized in the medical treatment community, testing of methadone patients to insure that they are not already taking Xanax and other drugs is required by law and by the clinic's own set procedures — this is the clinic's duty. The clinic failed to uphold its duty, and the foreseeable result occurred: Albers drove away and within just a few minutes the combination of drugs in her system, a combination that was known or should have been known by the clinic, impaired her driving ability, ultimately resulting in a conviction for manslaughter by automobile," Slezak continued.

The lawsuit says: "Just prior to the collision, which is the subject of the pleadings, Ms. Albers received methadone medication at MATT without first being tested for any other substances in her system, and was thereafter immediately released to operate her motor vehicle." It goes on to say: "All damages and losses claimed herein are the direct and proximate result of the negligence, recklessness and/or carelessness of Defendant MATT, without any negligence on the part of Plaintiffs."

The attorney representing MATT and Glass Health Programs is not listed in court documents; defendants typically file legal answers in court within 30 days.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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