Court Holds Pharmacy Has a Duty to Preserve Evidence of an Error

Earlier this month, a court in Nevada heard a case involving an interesting legal issue that has recently come up in courts across the nation. In the case, Burton v. Walgreen, the issue was whether a pharmacy had a duty to preserve evidence of an error made by one of the pharmacists. The court determined that whenever a patient returns medication to a pharmacy that was given to him in error, the pharmacy does have a duty to preserve it.

The Facts of the Case

According to a summary of the case, the patient was prescribed Valsartan, which is a blood pressure medication. He filled the prescription at a local Walgreen’s pharmacy, and when he got home, he began taking the medication as instructed. After taking about five doses, the patient’s wife noticed that there were two different kinds of pills in the vial that her husband was provided. The patient’s wife then took the medication back to the pharmacy, where the pharmacist confirmed that the patient had been given unprescribed lithium pills in addition to his Valsartan.

After documenting the error, the pharmacist quarantined and destroyed the medication, pursuant to the company’s written policy. In a lawsuit later filed against the pharmacy, the patient claimed that the pharmacy had engaged in spoliation of evidence. Spoliation of evidence is the destruction or significant alteration of evidence by someone who knows or should know that the evidence will be used as evidence in an upcoming court case. A court can impose sanctions against a party for spoliation of evidence.

Walgreen’s claimed that the pharmacist had no knowledge of any upcoming case and was only acting pursuant to company policy when he destroyed the evidence. However, the court determined that since an incident report was filled out, the pharmacist should have been aware that a court case may have been upcoming. As a result, there was a duty imposed to preserve the returned medication that was given in error. However, the court did not impose sanctions because Walgreen’s admitted that an error occurred, so the evidence was not technically relevant to the issues at trial. With that said, the case is important because it does establish that a pharmacy has a duty to keep returned medication that may have been given to a patient in error.

Have You Been a Victim of a Pharmacy Error?

If you or a family member has recently been harmed after being provided the incorrect medication by a pharmacist, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Pharmacy error lawsuits can be very complex and may require the testimony of medical or scientific experts to prove certain required elements, such as causation. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the Maryland law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have decades of combined experience representing clients in all kinds of personal injury cases, including those arising out of pharmacy errors. Call 410-654-3600 today to set up a free consultation to discuss your case.

More Blog Posts:

Recent Study Estimates In-patient Medication Errors Cost the U.S. Health Care System $16.4 Billion Annually, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, September 5, 2016.

Name Mix-Ups Are One of the Most Common Types of Pharmacy Errors, Pharmacy Error Injury Lawyer Blog, September 19, 2016.

Contact Information