Family of man who died under Dr. Brian Nadler's care sues physician, hospital

The family of Albert Poidinger, seen here earlier in his 80s, is suing the physician who was acquitted this week of killing him at the Hawkesbury and District General Hospital.
The family of Albert Poidinger, seen here earlier in his 80s, is suing the physician who was acquitted this week of killing him at the Hawkesbury and District General Hospital. ( Submitted by the family of Albert Poidinger)

The estate of Albert Poidinger is suing the physician who was acquitted this week of killing him and three other patients at the Hawkesbury and District General Hospital. The hospital is also named, as are six other staff members.

The civil suit, filed in February 2023, seeks $1.75 million in damages and is yet another legal case involving Dr. Brian Nadler.

The physician was recently acquitted of all criminal charges against him, including four counts of first degree murder, for the deaths of 89-year-old Albert Poidinger, 80-year-old Claire Briere, 79-year-old Lorraine Lalande and 93-year-old Judith Lungulescu.

All were under his care when they died in March 2021. He was accused of purposefully overmedicating the patients, who were all positive for COVID-19, while his defence told reporters after the acquittal it had several experts ready to testify he acted appropriately.

The Crown in that case said it was reserving the right to appeal and request a new trial. 

Last year, Nadler also filed his own civil suit against the eastern Ontario hospital and 21 members of its staff, who he claims are responsible for his wrongful arrest, for defamation, abuse of process and conspiracy.

The defendants in that case deny all the allegations outlined by Nadler and the court proceedings are still ongoing.

In their statement of claim, Poidinger's family claims Nadler, the hospital and other staff were negligent in Albert's care and treatment.

"Dr. Nadler ordered and administered medications that he knew … would likely cause Albert's death," the family alleged.

They said nurses would refuse to administer that medication but still provided Nadler with the doses several times before reporting to their superiors or calling the police.

The claims have not been tested in court.

Dr. Brian Nadler outside the Ottawa Courthouse on July 2, 2024, after he was officially acquitted of eight charges against him.
Dr. Brian Nadler, who was recently acquitted of eight criminal charges, is now facing a lawsuit for the death of one of his patients. (Patrick Louiseize/CBC)

Nadler denied all allegations against him in a statement of defence filed in May 2023.

The other defendants in this case have yet to file their own defence. They could not be reached for comment by the time of publication.

Conflicting accounts

Legal documents paint different pictures of how Poidinger came to be in hospital and the circumstances of his death.

The statement of claim details how Poidinger, who lived in the Montreal area, was first admitted to the Hawkesbury hospital on Feb. 10, 2021 because of a urinary tract infection (UTI).

By March 15 he had recovered well enough to be discharged, the family said, but Poidinger then tested positive for COVID-19 even though he was asymptomatic.

He would remain in hospital for the remaining few days of his life.

Nadler's own civil suit said he was the lead treating physician of a dedicated COVID ward at the hospital in March of 2021.

Five days after testing positive, Poidinger developed a fever and became unsteady on his feet, reads the statement of claim.

"However, he was generally alert, breathing normally and was not in any pain."

Nadler claims the patient was admitted for both a UTI and delirium, then was further diagnosed with "a major neurocognitive disorder" while in hospital.

He said he met with the family on March 3 to discuss Poidinger's condition.

"At that time, they decided that his goals of care would switch to palliative, with a focus on symptom management alone," reads his statement of defence.

The night of his arrest

The family claims Nadler initially reported the patient's condition was stable and "not worsening from any perspective" — with the only concern being his ability to get in and out of bed safely.

Poidinger would be pronounced dead just four days later.

On the morning of March 25, a nurse reported the 89-year-old was "alert, awake but disoriented," then became sleepy throughout the day, reads the claim.

The family argues this was just days after Nadler ordered Poidinger anti-nausea medication known to cause drowsiness and confusion.

"Despite no complaints of pain and/or agitation from Albert," they claim Nadler would administer strong opioids every 15 minutes "as needed."

The Hawkesbury Hospital is seen in Hawkesbury, Ont., on Tuesday, March 30, 2021. Police have charged Dr. Brian Nadler, 35, of Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Que., with first-degree murder and are looking into other recent suspicious deaths at the hospital. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
The Hawkesbury and District General Hospital is now facing two separate lawsuits by Dr. Brian Nadler and the family of one of his patients. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

The statement of claim describes how one of the nurses on staff that evening refused to administer the medication and doses, knowing they were lethal, but still prepared them for Nadler. Other nurses allegedly following suit.

"Dr. Nadler closed the door to Albert's room and refused to allow anybody to enter while he administered the unnecessary medications knowing that it would likely endanger and/or end Albert's life," Poidinger's family alleged.

Only then, they alleged, did nurses refuse to continue helping Nadler.

"Dr. Nadler then asked for a magnet from the emergency room to stop Albert's pacemaker as he believed that Albert was technically dead and it was just the pacemaker that was keeping him alive," reads the statement of claim.

Hospital staff later contacted police and Nadler was arrested and charged with Poidinger's murder that night.

Police vehicles parked outside the Hawkesbury and District General Hospital in Hawkesbury, Ont., early March 26, 2021.
Police vehicles parked outside the Hawkesbury hospital early March 26, 2021. (Denis Babin/Radio-Canada)

In his defence, Nadler said Poidinger's condition was steadily deteriorating in the days leading up to his death.

He said the patient was getting weaker, had shortness of breath, fell numerous times and "was noted to be confused and unable to self-report pain."

Nadler argues the family was informed of what was happening and that he "appropriately" administered palliative medication to Poidinger, calling his death "imminent."

"Mr. Poidinger's death was an unavoidable result of COVID," reads the defence.

He said he withheld administering more medication until a member of the family was present.

Nadler denied refusing entry to Poidinger's room but recalls drawing curtains around the patient's bed to give the family privacy.

He argued that it was the family that asked and consented to more medication to help with Poidinger's pain.

Nadler also denied requesting a magnet to make Poidinger's heart stop. He said he believed the patient could have had an internal device used to measure irregular heartbeats "and that this device may have been unnecessarily eliciting shocks to the patient," which a magnet could have stopped.

In his statement of defence, Nadler claims Poidinger died in the early hours of March 26 because of pre-existing health conditions exacerbated by COVID-19.

In his own civil suit, Nadler claims Poidinger was pronounced dead almost 24 hours after his arrest on the night of March 25.