Posted on Dec 21, 2006
Pharmacy error nets $8 million jury award
Kidney received in transplant was harmed by incorrect dosage
LANCASTER, S.C. - A jury has awarded a Lancaster woman nearly $8 million after she lost the use of her only kidney when a local drugstore gave her five times the amount of medication she was supposed to take.
Following a two-week trial in the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas, a judge on Dec. 8 ordered Rhode Island-based Eckerd Corporation to pay Tiffany Phillips $7.7 million for its role in the medicine mix-up.
Co-defendant CVS, also based in Rhode Island, reached a confidential settlement with Phillips for an undisclosed amount as the jury deliberated, said CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis.
In 2002, Tiffany Phillips, now 28, went to Eckerd in Lancaster to get a prescription for an anti-rejection drug for her kidney transplant, said her attorney, Ronnie Crosby. Phillips had the transplant to replace the one kidney she was born with.
Eckerd didn't have enough of the steroid, prednisone, so a technician called a Lancaster CVS store to fill the prescription, according to the suit. But a miscommunication between the two stores resulted in Phillips being told to take 1250 milligrams a day of the drug for three days rather than 250 milligrams, the lawsuit said.
Crosby said the CVS computer system flagged the prescription but a worker filled it using a manual override. Phillip was soon hospitalized and again needing a new kidney, Crosby said.
Crosby said the mistake left Phillips with few alternatives.
The transplant to replace the damaged kidney with her mother's kidney failed. The next transplant succeeded, using a kidney from an organ donor, but Crosby said it wasn't as good as the first transplant.
"The initial transplant was a perfect match," Crosby said.
After taking too much of the steroid, Phillips is unable to use dialysis. Plus, she cannot have a third kidney transplant, Crosby said.
"This is it for her," he said. "The net result is this has reduced her life expectancy."
DeAngelis said no CVS employee had been disciplined because of the incident.
Eckerd had no comment when contacted Wednesday, but during the trial the company said Phillips, who has taken medication much of her life, should have known the amount given to her was wrong.
Eckerd, which has asked the judge to put the judgment aside, argued during the trial that Phillips was to blame for the problem.
"Any injuries or damages allegedly sustained by Plaintiff were due to and caused and occasioned by Plaintiff's own negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, and wantonness," Eckerd wrote a court filing.
The jury, however found the drug stores 90 percent at fault and ordered a $2.7 award for damages plus $5 million in punitive damages.
The jury originally awarded Phillips $6.35 million from CVS, but the company settled with her for a "heck of a lot less" during the deliberations, Crosby said.
The jury awarded punitive damages, Crosby said, because Eckerd never admitted it had done something wrong.
The jury found Phillips 10 percent at fault for not noticing the correct prescription on her hospital discharge papers.