Earlier this month, a court found that pharmacists have a duty to retain medication returned to the pharmacy by a patient if the medication was returned as a result of a potential pharmacy error. The court in the case of Burton v. Walgreen Corporation held that the pharmacy should keep the returned medication because it may be relevant to an upcoming civil lawsuit, and a failure to preserve the potential evidence may result in court sanctions for the spoliation of evidence.
The Facts Giving Rise to the Lawsuit
According to a summary of the court’s opinion, Walters was prescribed blood pressure medication by his physician. Upon taking the prescription to a local Walgreen’s pharmacy, he was provided a single vial of medication. He didn’t realize it at the time, but there were two types of pills in the vial, his prescribed blood pressure medication as well as lithium pills.
Walters took the medication as directed when he got home. As it turns out, he took five doses of the lithium pills before his wife noticed that there were two different types of pills in the vial. She took the medication back to the pharmacy to confirm that this was a mistake. The pharmacist on duty told her that the lithium pills were given to her husband in error, and he kept the medication. The pharmacist followed the company’s written protocol, quarantining the medication and then eventually destroying it.
During a subsequent lawsuit brought by Walters against Walgreen’s, Walter claimed that Walgreen’s impermissibly destroyed the medication that he was given by the pharmacist, which was relevant evidence at trial. Walter asked that sanctions be imposed against Walgreen’s.
The court agreed that Walgreen’s should have preserved the evidence, but it opted not to implement sanctions against the company. The court reasoned that the returned medication was potential evidence and should be preserved because it was reasonably foreseeable that the medication was going to be relevant in an upcoming lawsuit. However, in this specific case, Walgreen’s admitted that an error occurred and only disputed the level of injuries Walters suffered. Thus, the evidence was not relevant to this specific case.
While this case arose in Nevada, it is still potentially important because it may be a first step in establishing a nationwide duty all pharmacists have to preserve this kind of evidence. Alternatively, each state may come to its own conclusion about whether this duty applies and in which situations.
Have You Been a Victim of an Indiana Pharmacy Error?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured by a negligent pharmacist, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. It is important to realize that medical malpractice cases can be extremely complex and may require the testimony of various experts. Therefore, it is best to retain the counsel of a dedicated personal injury attorney prior to filing your case. The skilled attorneys at Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have experience handling thousands of personal injury cases, including those arising out of pharmacy errors. Call 888-532-7766 to set up a free consultation today.
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