HELENA, Mont. (Legal Newsline) – The Supreme Court of the state of Montana recently upheld a district court’s ruling in a wrongful death case brought against Consumer Direct, a provider agency of a personal assistance program.

The high court ruled that the district court was correct in granting Consumer Direct’s motion for a summary judgment in a lawsuit brought on behalf of the estate of Maria Atkins-Swanson, who died of fatal overdose of buspirone in 2013.

Atkins-Swanson applied and qualified for participation in a government-sponsored program, the Self-Directed Personal Assistance Service Program. The program allowed Atkins-Swanson direct health-related tasks. Consumer Direct was her provider agency and the administrative service provider while she participated in the program, according to the court opinion.

Her estate sued Consumer Direct, claiming wrongful death, breach of contract and survivorship. In the suit, the estate representative claimed Consumer Direct was liable because Taylor Lang, the personal assistant charged with helping Atkins-Swanson, was one of its employees and was serving in that position when Atkins-Swanson died.

The District Court of 13th Judicial District, Yellowstone County ruled that Consumer Direct was not liable because it was not handling Atkins-Swanson’s personal care services, according to the court opinion.

The provider agency argued that under state laws medical and related liability rests on the hands of the person directing the personal care services. In this case, Consumer Direct argued that Atkins-Swanson was directing her personal care by participating in the Self-Directed Personal Assistance Service Program, according to the court opinion.

Swanson appealed the district court’s ruling, claiming the court erred by granting the summary motion and that state statute should not shutdown his claim that Consumer Direct was negligent in failing to adequately train and manage Lang, according to court records.

The court agreed that as a participant of the program, Atkins-Swanson was responsible for selecting, training, and managing Lang.

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