Medical Malpractice

Who's to Blame? Pharmacies on the Defensive

It sounds like a nightmare: A woman got into her car, plowed into and killed a motorist who had pulled onto the roadway shoulder to fix a flat tire and then crashed into another driver who suffered a serious head injury and a broken leg.

At least partly to blame, claim the families of the victims, is the pharmacy that filled a prescription pain-killer for the woman. This tragedy might have been avoided if the pharmacy had heeded the warning that this woman might be abusing drugs.

Negligence Defined

Negligence is when a person or entity such as a business is responsible for and accident if they have broken their duty of due care and directly caused injury or harm. The basic questions are if the person or entity acted reasonably, and if there was a duty to protect the injured person.

The next step is determining that the injury could have reasonably been predicted. Only then can the dollar value of the person's injuries, and the degree to which each defendant is responsible for the injuries be assessed.

Pharmacies Liability for Drug Reactions

The critical question in this Nevada case will be whether the pharmacy owed a duty to the injured people. Did the pharmacist who filled the prescription know that the woman had an addiction to pain killers and could have crashed into the victims?

This case could significantly affect how pharmacies document and screen for prescription pick-ups, especially for potentially addictive drugs such as Vicodin and other pain medications.

Serious Consequences For Prescription Sharing

Pharmacies and pharmacists operate under strict federal and state regulations when dispensing prescriptions. Doctors, physician's assistants, and nurse practitioners must be licensed before writing prescriptions. They're all under strict scrutiny, especially for controlled substances and risk losing their licenses if they don't follow these laws.

Don't give or sell your prescription medications to anyone. Selling them could land you in jail for a felony, and your life will be changed forever. Taking even one dollar, or an item of jewelry - even if it's just a "loan" until you're paid - could make you a seller of prescription medications. Giving them away could have serious consequences, too.

The other risk similar to that of the pharmacy in the Nevada case: You become responsible for injuries to another person. If someone is harmed when you gave the medications to someone else, you're at risk for being sued and held responsible for the injuries. Your own insurance company may refuse to cover you if they consider your actions "intentional."

The Nevada Supreme Court is now deciding the case's outcome. Pharmacies, pharmacists, and attorneys around the country are watching the outcome closely to determine their risk for such future scenarios.

While other states wouldn't have to follow the Nevada decision, it could set a precedent for future verdicts elsewhere.

Have a medical malpractice question?
Get answers from local attorneys.
It's free and easy.
Ask a Lawyer

Get Professional Help

Find a Medical Malpractice lawyer
Practice Area:
Zip Code:
How It Works
  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Connect with local attorneys

Get the compensation you deserve

We've helped 175 clients find attorneys today

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you