Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of West Virginia decided an interesting case that may influence the way Florida courts interpret a pressing legal issue in the State. In the case of Tug Valley Pharmacy, LLC v. All Plaintiffs Below, a group of 29 plaintiffs banded together to sue three pharmacists and one physician, alleging that the medication they received from the defendants led them to become addicted to and abuse controlled substances.
The Case at Trial
The group of plaintiffs claimed that the defendants provided them with prescriptions for certain medications, namely oxycodone, xanax, and Lortab, which furthered their addictions and ultimately led them into criminal behavior, including possession, distribution, fraud, misrepresentation, and doctor-shopping. Most of the plaintiffs admitted to using prescription drugs recreationally prior to receiving the prescription from the defendant doctors.
Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that the defendants were aware of and perpetuated the “pill mill” activities of medical providers, such as refilling prescriptions too early, filling prescriptions for large amounts of medication, providing contradicting medication to the same patient, and providing medications that are known to work together to provide a “better high.”
The defendants claimed two alternate theories of defense. First, the defendants claimed that the plaintiffs should be barred from bringing the lawsuit because they engaged in illegal activities themselves. Second, the defendants asked the court to dismiss the case, based on the fact that the plaintiffs were just as much at fault for their injuries as the defendants.
The lower court was inclined to allow the plaintiffs’ case to move forward but asked for guidance from the higher court.
The Supreme Court of Appeals Decision
In answering the question of whether the plaintiffs’ own illegal activity barred recovery, the court looked to the doctrine of comparative fault, which allows for a plaintiff to proceed when they are partially at fault but decreases their total award amount by their percent-at-fault. The court determined that this doctrine should be the one applied, and the jury can determine what, if any, effect the plaintiffs’ misconduct should have on their ability to recover.
Plaintiff Misconduct in Florida Courts
As noted, this case took place in West Virginia. It is not clear under the current state of the law how this would turn out in Florida. Florida does have a statute prohibiting recovery for any plaintiff who was engaged in a “forcible felony” at the time of the accident. However, the statute does not include crimes like the ones the plaintiffs above were allegedly engaged in. Still, a Florida court may determine that the plaintiffs’ wrongdoing should bar recovery, notwithstanding the lack of a specific statute.
Have You Been Involved in a Florida Accident?
If you have been involved in any kind of Florida medication error, you may be entitled to monetary compensation, even if you were not completely free of fault. Florida follows the comparative fault doctrine and allows plaintiffs the ability to recover—subject to a reduction in damages—even when they are partially at fault. To learn more, and to speak with a dedicated attorney about your case, call the Dean Law Firm at 352-387-8700 to set up a free consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Tragic Florida Van Accident Claims 8 Lives, Injures 10 Others, Ocala Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 3, 2015.
Walgreen’s Pharmacy Facing Several Claims of Pharmacy Errors, Ocala Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 18, 2015.