Florida Appellate Court Reverses Dismissal of Negligence Claim Against Pharmacist in Wrongful Death Lawsuit

In the recent case of Sorenson v. Professional Compounding Pharmacists of Pennsylvania, Inc., the decedent was a resident of Ohio who suffered injuries in a car accident that resulted in long-term back pain. His physician had prescribed hydromorphone administered via pain pump, which was inserted into his spinal canal.

During a vacation to Florida, the decedent made an appointment with Charlotte Pain Management Center, to which his treating physician had referred him. One of the doctors at the Florida facility prescribed hydromorphone but increased the concentration from 10 mg/mL to 30 mg/mL. The care facility sent the prescription to the pharmacist, who compounded the medication and sent it back to the care facility. The facility then administered the medicine to the decedent through his pain pump, and he died later that day.

The executor of the decedent’s estate filed a wrongful death claim that included a medical negligence claim against the care facility. Among the allegations and causes of action, the complaint stated that the pharmacist was negligent in filling the prescription, which called for triple the amount of hydromorphone. The pharmacist filed a motion to dismiss the three causes of action based on the negligence per se doctrine, and the trial court granted the motion.

On review to the Florida Second District Court of Appeal, the plaintiff argued that the lower court erred in dismissing these claims. The appellate court first reviewed Florida case law discussing the duty of care that a pharmacist owes to customers. According to the court, a pharmacist who sells a prescription warrants four things:

  1. That he or she will compound the prescribed drug;
  2. That he or she will exercise “due and proper care in filling the prescription”;
  3. That he or she will use proper methods in compounding the prescription; and
  4. That the drug is free of adulterants constituting foreign substances.

The appellate court also noted that this duty extends beyond the simple act of filling a prescription according to its written terms. If the prescription is unreasonable on its face, and the pharmacist fills it anyway, he or she may be held liable for any damages that result.

Applied to the case at hand, the appellate court concluded that the pharmacist knew or should have known that the prescription tripling the dosage of hydromorphone for the plaintiff could result in serious injuries or death. Accordingly, the plaintiff had pled a cognizable claim for recovery based on the pharmacist’s alleged negligence. The appellate court reversed the lower court’s dismissal of this claim and remanded the action.

Losing a loved one to another person’s negligence or recklessness is a painful and devastating experience. At Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, we have assisted numerous Southwest Florida residents with investigating a potential wrongful death claim and holding a wrongdoer responsible, including victims in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, and Naples. Although no amount of compensation can make up for the loss of a loved one, it can help your family and you cope with the burden it creates. Call us at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online to set up your free consultation today.

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