American Journal of Law & Medicine

Scope of Nevada Pharmacies' duty of care: Nevada Supreme Court Rules that pharmacies have no legal duty to third parties for harm caused by customer misuse of prescription drugs - Sanchez v. Wal-Mart Stores.

Scope of Nevada Pharmacies' Duty of Care: Nevada Supreme Court Rules that Pharmacies Have No Legal Duty to Third Parties for Harm Caused by Customer Misuse of Prescription Drugs -Sanchez v. Wal-Mart Stores. (1)--The Supreme Court of Nevada held that pharmacies dispensing drugs have no duty of care to protect unidentified third parties from pharmacy customers. This recent holding effectually precludes the possibility of a successful negligence claim by such parties against Nevada pharmacies. (2)

Sanchez v. Wal-Mart Stores involved a tort suit against a number of Nevada pharmacies for death and injury caused by one of the pharmacies' customers. In 2004, Patricia Copening struck Gregory Sanchez Jr. and Robert Martinez with her vehicle while they were on the side of the road, killing Sanchez and leaving Martinez seriously injured. (3) The incident resulted in Copening's arrest for driving under the influence of controlled substances. (4) Sanchez's minor daughters, his widow, the personal representatives of Sanchez's estate, and Martinez and his wife (Appellants) filed a wrongful death and personal injury complaint against Copening. (5) During discovery, Appellants learned that the Prescription Controlled Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force (6) had sent a letter informing certain pharmacies about Copening's prescription history. (7) Upon this finding, Appellants amended the original complaint to include the following pharmacies that dispensed prescription drugs to Copening: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Longs Drug Stores Co., Walgreen Co., CVS Pharmacy, Inc., Rite Aid, Albertson's Inc., and Lam's Pharmacy (Pharmacies).

The Nevada District Court concluded that the Pharmacies did not owe a legal duty to Appellants, defeating the negligence claim, and granted the Pharmacies' motion to dismiss. (8) The district court held that the Nevada legislature has not created a statutory duty for the Pharmacies to take action after receiving the letter from the task force. (9) Absent such a statute, the district court determined that Nevada's dram shop case law governs and that the claim would also fail for lack of proximate cause. …

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