WV. court rules drug addicts can sue pharmacists

May 26, 2015

West Virginia Supreme Court justices recently ruled that people who illegally abuse prescribed drugs could sue the doctors who prescribed the drugs and pharmacists that dispensed them.

West Virginia Supreme Court justices recently ruled that people who illegally abuse prescribed drugs could sue the doctors who prescribed the drugs and pharmacists that dispensed them.

However, a law that took effect this month will prevent people who commit felonies from recovering damages, and makes the ruling practically moot.

See also: West Virginia panel targets doctors, pharmacies linked to overdoses

The justices ruled 3-2 that people who abuse prescribed drugs could still file claims against the doctors and pharmacists they claim caused their addictions.

In such cases, the justices ruled, jurors would be asked to weigh the criminal conduct of the abusers against the alleged negligent or wrongful conduct of the prescribers and pharmacists.

“We are cognizant of and expressly note that in its most recent session, our Legislature enacted a similar statute which would bar recovery for a plaintiff whose damages ‘arise out of the plaintiff’s commission, attempt to commit or fleeing from the commission of a felony criminal act insofar as the plaintiff is convicted of the felony,’” Chief Justice Margaret Workman wrote.

 

The new law took effect on May 25 and is not retroactive.  According to the new law: “In any civil action, a defendant is not liable for damages that the plaintiff suffers as a result of the negligence or gross negligence of a defendant if such damages arise out of the plaintiff’s commission, attempt to commit or fleeing from the commission of a felony criminal act: Provided, that the plaintiff has been convicted of such felony, or if deceased, the jury makes a finding that the decedent committed such felony.”

Two justices, Allen Loughry and Menis Ketchum, each filed dissenting opinions. “By summarily dismissing the wrongful conduct rule as unworkable, the majority’s decision requires hard-working West Virginians to immerse themselves in the sordid details of the parties’ enterprise in an attempt to determine who is the least culpable - a drug addict or his dealer,” Loughry wrote.

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