Pop star Prince was such an American Icon that his death touched many lives and it also has many Americans curious how such a disciplined artist could let an opioid drug, like fentanyl, take him down – or did it? Or, was it the hand of helpers, physicians or pharmacists to blame.

We’ll take a look, but this case should take a while for justice to run its course, if a wrongful death lawsuit even gets filed. We’ll take a look at the medical negligence aspect primarily of those involved around Prince.

Details and Allegations in the Death of Prince


The following details and allegations were collected from news reports and court documents:

  • Prince Rogers Nelson, 57, died of an accidental overdose on fentanyl on April 21, according to Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office located in Anoka County, Minnesota.
  • The examiner’s office waited for toxicology tests results before releasing the autopsy results.
  • Prince was hospitalized the week before his death due to a health issue, which required his private plane to make an emergency landing in Illinois.1
  • His handlers alleged that he had been battling the flu, which may have turned into walking pneumonia.
  • The New York Times, on the other hand, reported that he had been struggling with addiction to pain killers.
  • One report even indicates that one of his close friends spoke discreetly with Dr. Howard Kornfeld, who is a known opioid addiction specialist in California.
  • ABC News had also filed a lawsuit against the Quad City International Airport to release the cockpit recording from Prince’s emergency landing to help explain any possible medical malpractice.
  • The recording only had a simple statement, “Chicago, send us an ambulance.” It was only six days before Prince’s death. When asked to why an ambulance was needed, the voice replied, “unresponsive passenger.”
  • Prince’s primary physician, Dr. Michael Schulenberg, is under investigation as to whether he wrote prescriptions for Prince’s painkillers. Addiction specialist Dr. Howard Kornfeld is likewise under investigation, but claims he never met the star.2
  • The calm demeanor of the voice in the recording, thought to be Dr. Schulenberg’s, has been debated that the physician may have witnessed more than one overdose and that it could have been a common occurrence.
  • Emergency responders were said to have administered a “save shot” to Prince, which is a common occurrence for opioid overdoses.
  • The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office has been investigating how Prince was able to get access to opioid painkillers.
  • Schulenberg allegedly quit working for North Memorial Medical Center, which some investigators claim is an admission of guilt.
  • It is alleged that Prince had hip problems from being a performer, which may have been the reason for receiving painkillers. “He was in pain all the time, but he was a performer,” said Sheila E, one of Prince’s protégés and one-time fiancé.3
  • A third, unnamed Twin Cities physician has also been identified as someone, who was set to begin treating Prince for withdrawal symptoms to opioids. Prince was scheduled to meeting with that doctor on April 21, but never made the appointment.
  • Kornfeld also could not make it out to Minnesota to begin treating Prince, so he sent his pre-med son, Andrew, with an initial treatment of buprenorphine – a controlled substance used to treat opioid addiction. Two of Prince’s representatives and Andrew found Prince’s body at his Paisley Park compound. Attorneys for the Kornfelds say Andrew is protected by Minnesota law that shields anyone seeking medical assistance for a person thought to be overdosing on opioids.4

Finding Negligence in Prince’s Medical Malpractice Suit

Ultimately, Prince’s family – his eight brothers and sisters – will have to file a wrongful death lawsuit for medical malpractice. They will also need to come into agreement on who will act as the representative of the estate. Since Prince left no will to name an executor, his family will have to be in agreement, or a judge will appoint a representative. The type of damages allowed by Minnesota state law include the following:

  • Funeral and burial costs
  • Any medical-related costs, treatment, care, and hospitalization used to treat Prince before his passing
  • Loss of care, protection, or service that was provided to any family member
  • Loss of wages, income, and/or benefits any surviving family member may have experienced
  • Mental anguish, sorrow, loss of solace
  • Loss of companionship, care, social interaction and guardianship or guidance

Contact a Portland and Seattle Personal Injury Lawyers at the Savage Law Firm

Have you lost a loved one to an opioid or dangerous drug prescription? If so, you can rely on a Portland and Seattle Personal Injury Lawyers at the Savage Law Firm for compassionate assistance and aggressive legal advocacy. Our lawyers have been devoted to providing each of our clients with personal attention, respect and the highest quality legal services since 1977.

We realize how devastating an opioid overdose can be on a physical as well as a psychological level, which is why our Portland and Seattle personal injury lawyers are here to aggressively defend injured people’s rights to both justice and compensation.

For a free legal consultation on how we can help with any medical malpractice case, call our Portland and Seattle personal injury lawyers at 503-222-0200 (in Portland), at 206-957-7272 (in Seattle), or you can also email us using the form on this page. We represent clients in communities in both Oregon and Washington from our offices in Portland and Seattle.


1“Prince died of an opioid overdose, autopsy reveals” published in PBS, June 2016.

2“Prince Emergency Landing Recording Released Possible Medical Malpractice” published in Public Slate, July 2016.

3“Sheila E. on Prince: ‘He Was in Pain All the Time, but He Was a Performer’” published in ET, April 2016.

4“Prince had been under a Minnesota doctor’s care weeks before his death” publish in the Star Tribune, May 2016.