Following a week-long trial brought against one of the nation’s largest retail pharmacy chains, Alex C. Walker, Tiffany Roach Martin, and Tomas Garcia obtained a defense verdict in a wrongful death case alleging its pharmacists had improperly filled excessive levels of prescriptions for pain medications.
Plaintiffs claimed that the decedent, a 28 year-old mother of three, had been prescribed excessive quantities of drugs by a pain doctor who, by the time of trial, had been federally indicted on charges that he prescribed medications to patients outside the usual course of practice and without a legitimate medical purpose, and who had 21 patients – including the decedent – die from overdose.
The claim against the pharmacy was that its staff knew that it was dispensing excessive quantities of medications to the decedent, knew that the combination of medications it was dispensing to the decedent was potentially deadly, knew that any pain prescriptions from the prescribing physician in question warranted increased scrutiny (he was the top pain prescriber in the state; the second on the list was the entire staff of medical residents at a major hospital), and knew that the decedent was abusing her prescriptions and engaging in drug-seeking behavior. Plaintiffs’ counsel asked the jury for damages well into seven figures.
The decedent, it turned out, died from a combination of her prescription drugs and illicit street drugs. However, the experts were unable to say that the illegal drugs alone would have killed her, making a “no causation” defense impossible. Accordingly, the defense fought the duty/breach elements, premised on individual responsibility. While acknowledging their professional obligations, the pharmacists successfully defended by establishing that they are not doctors, do not have access to patient charts, are not tasked with policing the medical profession, and do not make independent treating decisions before dispensing prescriptions.