Why do Many Lawsuits or Injury Claims Pharmacies Settle in Silence?

Matthew L. White
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Founder & Partner of Louisville Personal Injury Law Firm Gray & White Law

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2/17/2011
Matthew L. White
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According to an investigation published by USA Today, prescription medication mistake related lawsuits have on numerous occasions included allegations of corporate malfeasance when it relates to cases of pharmacy errors at or committed by Walgreens and CVS. Many of the injury lawsuits were settled and, not surprisingly, nearly all the settlements included confidentiality agreements, which essentially ensures that mistakes by the most profitable pharmacy companies are never made known to warn potential future victims as those who are injured and accept a settlement for their claims are forbidden from disclosing details or amounts relating to their particular incident or experience.

A 29-year old pregnant woman was prescribed a prenatal vitamin by her doctor in an effort to ensure the health of her unborn child. The prescription was written for Materna, a prenatal vitamin, and was presented to her local Walgreens store. Instead of filling the prescription medication for the vitamin, however, Walgreens pharmacy made a mistake and gave her Matulane, a chemotherapy drug that interferes with cell growth.

Chandra Givens, the victim of the prescription drug error filed a lawsuit against Walgreens in federal court and included claims of injuries as she suffered weeks of nausea, vomiting, neurologic symptoms, dizziness, lightheadedness, chills and shortness of breath. A medical exam revealed that her fetus was not developing normally. A few months into her pregnancy, Givens miscarried the unborn child. According to reports and allegations, the victim claimed that the loss of her baby was a direct result of Walgreens' giving her the wrong drug, and actual and punitive damages in excess of $75,000 were sought by Givens and her husband. Attorneys for the pregnant woman alleged Walgreens failed her on multiple levels in terms of supervising its personnel and verifying the prescription with her doctor.

A few weeks after the lawsuit was filed, the case was settled out of court. Pursuant to the terms of the settlement with Walgreens, the pregnant woman, her husband and attorney are not allowed to publicly talk about issues that seem to reoccur for many patients who are injured after given the wrong medication by a pharmacy such as Walgreens or CVS. Questions still linger and remain unanswered for future victims because of such confidentiality agreements that are incorporated by pharmacy lawyers as part of settlements that seem large enough to keep victims quiet about their claimed and filed injuries and/or tragedies. Thus, we are left to wonder: Was Walgreens really to blame? What caused the error?

According to injury lawyers, like our own, who specialize in pursuing claims against Walgreens or other pharmacies for serious prescription drug errors linked to incidents including, but not limited to, labeling, dosage, medication and instructions, settlements buy silence. Attorneys face an ethical Catch-22, that is, attorneys have a duty to their client and a duty to the public good. But their first duty is to their client. And, if the client is going to get paid, then the big-box pharmacies or pharmacy companies insist on and require silence in exchange for the settlement monies.

There appears to be a pattern in which drug chains settled cases after they were asked to produce data that reveals what happens behind the drug counter, such as how many prescriptions pharmacists are expected to fill in how much time. According to Barry Furrow, director of the health law concentration at the Drexel University College of Law, says pharmacies have two major reasons to insist on confidentiality or confidential settlements. First, to avoid bad publicity in a field where public trust is important. Second, to keep potentially damaging information from plaintiff lawyers. The problem, however, is that such agreements make it extremely difficult to detect patterns of errors at pharmacies, though it's in the public interest to know if they do, in fact, exist.

Interestingly, and not surprisingly, Walgreens challenges the notion that it typically asks for confidentiality in settling such cases. According to a written statement by the drug chain: "Rather than a strict policy, [Walgreens] consider[s] each case as unique and handle[s] it individually." According to experts in the field of legal ethics, and based on statistics collected throughout the nation as to confidential settlements, it is true that confidentiality is agreed to in a majority of tort or injury lawsuits, especially when a company's or an individual's reputation is at stake, for example in medical, hospital, pharmaceutical or pharmacy malpractice.

The CVS drug chain provided a written statement and expressed that: "Confidentiality agreements are a common practice for all businesses in commercial transactions and in litigation. By including the confidentiality provision, CVS follows standard procedures typical for resolution of any liability claim." Basically, if one person agrees with another person (or entity) to make a contract, that contract can be conditioned on secrecy. The gist of a confidential settlement is exactly this type of contract; and, one must keep in mind that there is no court judgment or order involved, instead it is a voluntary payment in exchange for certain terms, namely silence. Sometimes, however, the lawyers representating the pharmacy will try to take advantage of a victim by offering a quick settlement for much less than an injured person needs for obtaining future treatment of his or injury. That is why before you accept a settlement offered by the pharmacy's lawyers, you should consult with a member of our team of injury attorneys who specialize in pharmacy error claims and who will fight to protect your rights for the injury you or a family member suffered. There is no reason to be a victim - twice.
 
Gray and White Law has helped many families throughout Kentucky whose loved ones have suffered physical, emotional, or even permanent, injuries as the result of a prescription drug error or medication mistake made by a hospital or pharmacy chain, its pharmacists, assistants and/or technicians. If you suspect that you, or a person you care about, may have been the victim of a medication error, prescription mistake or medical malpractice, then you should contact our law firm immediately for a free legal consultation. We can be reached at any time via confidential e-mail or toll-free call at 1-888-450-4456.

Category: Medication Errors


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