Ship owner sues CVS over San Francisco collision

May 1, 2012

Owners of a ship that slammed into the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in 2007 are trying to blame California pharmacists for the crash, claiming that they "recklessly" provided prescription medications that clouded the judgment of the ship?s pilot.

Owners of a ship that slammed into the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in 2007 are trying to blame California pharmacists for the crash, claiming that they “recklessly” provided prescription medications that clouded the judgment of the ship’s pilot.

The suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, does not specify what drugs John Cota, the pilot, took before the collision or why they were prescribed. The action claims that pharmacists at a Longs Drug Store in Petaluma, Calif., did not warn Cota about the potential dangers of combining drugs, to consult his physicians, or to contact pilot licensing authorities.

Longs Drugs has since been purchased by CVS Caremark. CVS spokesman Michael DeAngelis told Drug Topics that the company cannot comment in detail on matters involving pending litigation.

“However, we believe Longs Drugs had no liability in this lawsuit,” DeAngelis said, “and we plan to vigorously defend against it.”

Cota, a 27-year pilot on San Francisco Bay, was at the helm when a container ship, the Cosco Busan, slammed into the 4.4-mile long bridge between San Francisco and Oakland in heavy fog. The collision released more than 50,000 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay, fouling beaches north and south of the bridge. Wildlife biologists have linked the spill to the deaths of more than 2,400 birds.

The National Transportation Safety Board found that Cota’s cognitive abilities had been impaired by prescription drug use. The board also faulted the veteran pilot for sailing during a heavy fog, misreading the vessel’s radar and navigation charts, and failing to communicate his navigation plans to the vessel’s captain.

In 2009, Cota pleaded guilty to federal charges of polluting navigable waters and was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison. The ship’s owner, Regal Stone Ltd, and operator, Fleet Management Ltd, agreed to pay $8 million in damages and a $10 million fine.