That’s the question a Richmond, Va. jury will decide in a case involving a pharmacist who accuses the retail giant of defamation, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Pharmacist Angela Tuck is seeking more than $8 million in damages from CVS, its regional diversion manager, and the lead coordinator of the chain’s drug loss program team. She alleges CVS had her falsely arrested for allegedly stealing drugs, badmouthed her to colleagues, and then filed erroneous charges against her with state Board of Pharmacy.
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According to the lawsuit: “[CVS] refused to conduct a proper investigation of the alleged loss or theft of the controlled substance, instead recklessly and/or maliciously defaming plaintiff to her supervisors, store manager, coworkers, local police officers, and the Board of Health/Department of Health Professions.”
CVS disputes those allegations. “CVS Health is an equal opportunity employer and we are committed to respecting the individual rights of all of our colleagues,” Michael J. DeAngelis, a company spokesperson, told Drug Topics. “We dispute the allegations made against the company in this complaint, but we cannot comment further due to this being a matter of pending litigation.”
All of the charges against Tuck were eventually dropped, and the pharmacy board ruled in Tuck’s favor. Now, Tuck’s attorneys are using the same videotape CVS used to justify its actions against her to attempt to force the retail chain to pay millions in damages.
Videotape footage leads to pilferage accusation
Tuck, a pharmacist with more than 25 years of experience, began working at a CVS location in Colonial Heights, Va. in 2010. According to court documents, her reviews consistently met or exceeded expectations.
Court documents indicate Tuck’s problems began in February 2015, when the pharmacy identified a discrepancy in its inventory of hydromorphone. That led to an investigation by Randy Hall, CVS’ regional diversion manager, according to the lawsuit.
After reviewing pharmacy video footage between February 11, 2015 and February 24, 2015, Hall concluded that the video showed Tuck removing a bottle of hydromorphone and placing it in her pocket. Tuck said the video showed her writing on a piece and paper, and taking a pen in and out of her pocket.
According to court documents, Tuck’s pharmacy manager reviewed the videotape and disagreed with Hall’s assessment that Tuck took any hydromorphone.
During questioning of Tuck, court documents allege Hall told her: “We don’t know the why, just the how, but we know that you took a bottle of hydromorphone. We have a tape of you doing it.”
Tuck insisted that no such tape existed because she never took any hydromorphone. She refused to admit to anything, telling Hall: “You’d better arrest me, then.”
That’s exactly what happened next. Tuck was placed in handcuffs, escorted out of the CVS in front of customers and coworkers. She was charged with embezzlement as well as knowingly possessing a controlled substance.
On the same day that Tuck was arrested, the lawsuit alleges Hall went to the pharmacy and told her colleagues, in front of customers “about how Ms. Tuck had been arrested because she had taken a bottle of hydromorphone from the pharmacy.”
She was subsequently fired from CVS. And Sarah Rudis, lead coordinator of CVS’ drug loss program team, sent a letter to the Virginia Board of Pharmacy reporting a loss of controlled substances due to pilferage by Tuck.
Judge sees videotape differently than CVS
On May 20, 2015, Tuck appeared before Judge Matthew D. Nelson for a probable cause hearing. After reviewing the videotape provided by CVS, Nelson dismissed the charges against Tuck.
“I looked at the videotape and I watched that video and, quite frankly, I didn’t see what [CVS witness Randy Hall] said he saw,” Nelson stated.
“I didn’t see the conclusion that Mr. Hall came to that there was a bottle missing and that there was a bottle there, and, then, all of a sudden there was a bottle missing. I watch it. I watched it twice,” Nelson stated.
Nelson also noted that CVS’ pharmacy supervisor could not verify how many bottles of hydromorphone were originally in the store’s safe. “That doesn’t get me where I need to get even at this [lower, probable cause] standard,” Nelson stated.
In December 2015, the pharmacy board notified Tuck that “the evidence presented [against her] is insufficient to support a finding of a violation of the statutes or regulations that govern the practice of pharmacy in Virginia.”