Court Concludes Patient’s Own Actions Constitute Intervening Cause in Prescription Medicine Overdose Case

Earlier last month, an appellate court in Tennessee issued a written opinion in a case involving the death of a man who had overdosed on prescription medication. The court ultimately determined that the patient’s death was attributable to his own actions. The case was presented to the court as a workers’ compensation case, but the issue the court decided was relevant to personal injury cases involving allegations of pharmacy error and medical malpractice.

The Facts of the Case

The petitioner was the surviving wife of a carpenter who involved in an accident while on the job. As a result of the accident, the man’s doctor prescribed oxycodone, a powerful and addictive pain medication. The man took the medication as directed at first but then began abusing it. According to the court’s opinion, he would skip doses of the medication in fear that he would run out when he needed it. He eventually started to take the medication with alcohol to increase the medication’s effectiveness.

About two years after his accident, the man’s wife discovered her husband’s lifeless body in bed. The woman, through her deceased husband, filed for workers’ compensation benefits based on the fact that the original injury her husband sustained occurred while he was on the job. An autopsy reported the man’s cause of death as opioid toxicity, with contributing causes of hypertension, alcohol use, and tobacco use.

Applying a similar legal test that is applied in personal injury cases, the court determined that the man’s own actions in taking the medication with alcohol acted as an intervening cause of his death. The finding of an intervening cause severed the chain of causation begun by the on-the-job accident. Thus, the man’s wife was not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

Intervening Causes in Personal Injury Cases

In some personal injury cases, a defendant may attempt to avoid liability by claiming that another intervening cause interrupted the chain of events set in motion by the defendant. If a defendant is successful in establishing that an intervening cause exists, the court may attribute some or all of the fault to the party responsible for the intervening cause. In cases in which the plaintiff is responsible for the intervening cause, the plaintiff may be prevented from recovering compensation for their injuries.

Have You Been a Victim of a Maryland Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Maryland accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the Maryland-based law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience in all types of personal injury cases, including those arising from medication errors, instances of medical malpractice, and car accidents. We understand how to prove injury cases, and we effectively prepare our clients’ cases by anticipating which defenses may arise at trial. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation with an attorney today. Calling is free and will not result in any obligation on your part unless we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

More Blog Posts:

Pharmacist Convicted of Charges Related to Deadly Meningitis Outbreak, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, April 10, 2017.

Human Error Is Not the Only Contributing Factor in Some Pharmacy Errors, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, April 24, 2017.

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