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Lawyers - Do I have reason to sue Walgreens (LONG - kids ment)

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Madelon*sMom Posted: 02-21-2010 10:51 AM

First, let me start off by saying that I am very far from being a "sue-happy" person (i.e. I've fallen on a wet floor in a store and broke my wrist - others told me to sue - but, I figured I'm an able-bodied person so it was my fault so let it go).  I do not like it when people threaten to sue my place of employment and know that it is a yucky feeling to know someone is just waiting for you to screw up so they can pounce.  That said, this is the situation I'm dealing with...

My 22 mos old DD has RSV.  We've been to the Dr everyday trying to avoid her from being hospitalized (my older DD was hospitalized with RSV at the same age so I'm VERY stressed out and anxious).  We took her to the ER the other night and they sent us home with a prescription for a strong cough suppresant with codeine.  It's a fine line if a child of her age is too young for medicines with codeine, so we were anxious about even filling the prescription.  Fast forward to the next day and she is having hte most severe coughing fits where her face is turning purple so I decide to drop the prescription off at Walgreens thinking that she really does need the medicine.  My husband picked up the medicine hours later and "consulted" with a pharmacist.  The girl told him to follow the directions and not going over the amount to take, yadda, yadda, yadda.  On the bottle, it states not to give over the amount prescribed as it can "halt breathing."  Seeing this, I make a comment to DH to be sure to follow the directions on the label.  Before bed, he starts to give her the medicine.  By the grace of God he makes a comment about how it sure seems like a lot of medicine.  I look at the label and it says "1 1/2 tsp" so I tell him that that is what it says.  He questions it again so I decide to call the pharmacy just to be safe.  I call, tell the pharmacist the situation, and she starts to look up the info on the computer. I hear a loud gasp and she panicks and says "Ma'am, how much have you given your child?"  I yell to DH to stop giving the medicine and find out how much.  He only gave her 1/2 tsp.  Turns out the prescription was written for ".5 tsp" and, as the pharmacist said, "someone accidentally typed in 1.5 instead of .5."  I go up to the pharmacy to get new label (they wanted to put a new one on - I took a picture of the old one).  The pharmacist says she's thankful that DH questioned it.  She said if we would've given her 1.5 (3 times the amt prescribed) that she most likely would've stopped breathing.  Of course right there I start bawling and feel like I might throw up.  The manager comes and they fill out paperwork about it.  I made a comment about how angels must've been whispering in DH's ears and I can't believe what almost happened.  The manager then says "well, it happens."  WTF?!?!?!  "IT HAPPENS???" 

It has been bothering me ever since that the manager is so cavalier about the whole thing.  It happens that a simple typo error could possibly cost my child her life???  Several friends have commented that I should seek a lawyer and sue them b/c that's the only way that they'll listen.

Like I said, I'm not "sue-happy" but I'm wondering if I need to do something to send a message???

Jen - 36

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Madelon 4/28/03

Mackenzie 3/24/08

 

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shellymoe replied on 02-21-2010 11:23 AM

I'm not a lawyer, but...

Since you spoke with the manager & completed paperwork (most likely some sort of incident report) and got the picture, you definitely have proof that they screwed up.  That being said, you also caught it in time and no harm came to your DD.  If you are not satisfied with the manager's "apology" (which I wouldn't be), then I would contact corporate.  Find out if they are in charge of their pharmacists too or if that's a different department (some stores aren't exactly "in charge" of their pharmacy departments).  I would definitely insist that they retrain their employees and that something needs to be said to the manager for treating it as a "it happens" situation.

I would also contact the press.  Tell them what happened and that you want to make sure it doesn't happen to another child (and possibly happen too late).

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CardinalZin replied on 02-21-2010 11:26 AM

Generally, to prevail, you have to show 1)negligence 2)that directly caused 3)harm.  Here, it sounds like an error.  To show that it was negligent, you're going to have a steep hill to climb to prove it (did the employee not follow procedures? is this a common error by this employee?  have similar errors been made & no effort to prevent further errors? etc.)  Also, what was your harm?  Your daughter is fine (she wasn't harmed by the error/potential negligence).  You have suffered emotionally, but whether that alone is enough to recover in part depends on your state's laws for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

If people could recover on accidents made in good faith, we'd all be suing and be sued, which is why there's a high level of proof that has to be shown in order to recover.

The manager was probably referring to the fact that mistakes do happen.  It sounds like his attitude was flippant, which incensed you more.  I would suggest you write a letter to the pharmacy department, the general manager of that location, a franchise or regional director, and the customer relations department of Walgreen's.  They might offer to compensate you for this.

I'm licensed in NC, so the laws might vary in your state.  Most personal injury lawyers do not charge for an initial consult, so you could try to see about getting in for a consult.

 

Sarah (33)Cool

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Madelon*sMom replied on 02-21-2010 11:44 AM

Thank you for the replies!  You are right, I became more angry when I thought of the "it happens" comment.  Honestly, at first, I was just so relieved and THANKFUL that nothing had happened to my daughter.  I feel like there must've been some procedure in place that wasn't followed through on.  I'm sure a clerk entered the info, but wouldn't a pharmacist have to "sign off" on it?  I know that they are overworked and busy, but it is not an excuse for what "could've happened." 

CardinalZin - I will most definitely take your advice about writing the company... 

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Atarah replied on 02-21-2010 11:58 AM

That comment about well it happens is unacceptable.  I worked for the Walgreen Company for 4.5 years, in the District Office.  I suggest you get the Regional Vice Presiden's number and go from there.  The company has changed since I  stopped working there several years ago.  If you want to sue go right ahead but your child didn't take the medication to cause harm so I don't know how much of a case you would have.  If you have the time and money then go ahead but I can tell you they are a very large company so if you want to fight go ahead.  I hope you get the results your looking for.

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Madelon*sMom replied on 02-21-2010 12:08 PM

It's not that I *want* to sue - I was just questioning it b/c so many of friends have made a comment that that is the only way that they'll listen or care.  If I can write a letter to the corporate office and get a sufficient answer or feel like they take it seriously, then I'm fine with that.  I wasn't even sure if anything could be done since my DD (thank God) was not harmed.  Can't say much about my nerves, but that's beside the point ;)  

Like I said before, I am most definitely NOT a sue-happy person.  Just wasn't sure what I should do...

I appreciate the replies!

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Madelon 4/28/03

Mackenzie 3/24/08

 

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CardinalZin replied on 02-21-2010 12:13 PM

In PI cases, even though you generally don't have to pay the legal fees unless you recover, you generally have to pay for the associated costs, like paying for experts, copying records, depositions, etc. And, even then, if at the end of the day there is a jury trial and they are found to be negligent, you might end up with $1 in nominal damages.  Or you could settle for just the costs of litigation, but you've been entangled in this litigation until then.

 

Good luck.

 

 

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angelald replied on 02-21-2010 12:18 PM

I agree - there is definitely no case here so it would be a waste of your time and money.  Now if something had happened (thank God it didn't) that would be a completely different story.  A letter to the Company is warranted so that hopefully they can review the procedures they have in place to make sure this doesn't happen to any other family.

Angela

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Madelon*sMom replied on 02-21-2010 12:44 PM

Definitely sounds like I don't want to get entangled in a lawsuit - not that I had ever seriously considered it - just seeing what the options are.  I think if I write a letter to the corporate office and demand a reply, hopefully they'll know that I want something to be done.  I really believe that there HAS TO be some system in place (that, obviously, failed) to avoid this kind of thing.  People make typing errors all of the time and if there isn't some system in place to double-check things, then people would be dying left and right from pharmacy errors. 

This has definitely been an eye-opener for me (and, now, countless friends who know what happened).  I will be extra vigilent when getting a prescription from a doctor.  I will ask them what they are writing the prescription for and for the dosage.  I will then match it with the label when picking it up from the pharmacy and then will request a consult with a pharmacist and have them double-check that it is the right medication.  I know I'll be a PITA but it is, honestly, worth it.  The thought of what could've happened (and was so close to happening) makes me physically sick.

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Mackenzie 3/24/08

 

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MrsBeach replied on 02-21-2010 1:03 PM

Madelon*sMom:

I feel like there must've been some procedure in place that wasn't followed through on.  I'm sure a clerk entered the info, but wouldn't a pharmacist have to "sign off" on it?

 

I think you are absolutely correct. I work at a veterinary clinic and the assistants/receptionists make up all medication. But by LAW we have to take the bottle the meds came from as well as the bottle going to the owner and show it to the prescribing vet. They read over their directions and sign off on it. We then keep a copy of the signed rx for our records as well.

I hope there is a similar procedure for human meds as well and perhaps the "mistake" was that their employees were not following protocol. Which should absolutely be brought to the attention of the higher ups.

 

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mamarti1 replied on 02-21-2010 1:13 PM

I agree with others that you should definitely go up the Walgreen's chain with your complaint (I believe you can do this directly from their website, actually), and that I doubt that moving forward with a lawsuit would be either satisfying or productive.

Trust me as someone who is also not "sue happy" but was previously in a situation where I didn't have much choice, being involved in a lawsuit just sucks. It's a drain of energy, its frustrating, time consuming, and potentially even expensive.

I also had a similar situation with Walgreens though fortunately it wasn't  as dangerous. I went to pick up Augmentin for my then infant-DD who had an ear infection. When I got home, I read the instructions and started to measure out the dose into the syringe and I realized something was wrong. The pharm-tech had never mixed the medicine with water (it comes to them in powder form).

I rushed out to the pharmacy but it was already closed for the night and I had to wait until the next day to get the Rx filled. Staying up with a sleepless baby and knowing we were that much further from relief really incensed me, and it was such a stupid mistake on the part of the pharmacy. They were very apologetic about the mistake but I was still mad enough to contact Walgreens corporate. They're the ones who oversee the pharmacy's overall performance and I think its important they know about these type of errors.

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cfowler326 replied on 02-22-2010 6:13 AM

Unfortunately this type of error is common.  They might have procedures in place, but even if all were followed, if it was a simple keystroke error... unless there was something in place to check once it was typed in.  And maybe that is an answer too.

At the last hospital I work at we lost a child to a med error on the floor.  Surgeon wrote .5 something and because there wasn't a (zero) 0.5 the . got lost and the child was given 5 something (I believe it was codeine or something similar).  That was the original point of error, but the pharmacist who filled it and the numerous nurses could have caught it also. 

I would raise a huge stink until I was assured there was something in place to prevent this from happening again.  I probably would get the media involved, inc public awareness.

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mstrinity replied on 02-22-2010 9:05 AM

Mistakes and near-misses do happen all too frequently in the medical setting. If you aren't happy with the manager's response, I would try the next up, probably a district manager, who is in charge of an entire area and more responsible for how things are dealt with in a systematic sense. FInd out what they are planning to prevent future mistakes, tell them you would like specifics.

If you aren't happy with what they have told you, then I would go forward with filing a complaint with the board of pharmacy. All complaints are investigated. Its free and you can do it very easily online. It sends a message, trust me. The computer system should have flagged the pediatric dose and there should be a double check system in place for such a young child. If you file a complaint, an investigation will likely look into these matters..

 

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ChaiBee replied on 02-22-2010 8:30 PM

Why not contact your local media (newspaper/television) and tell their consumer reporters your story?

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girn replied on 02-22-2010 8:55 PM

Madelon*sMom:

  Turns out the prescription was written for ".5 tsp" and, as the pharmacist said, "someone accidentally typed in 1.5 instead of .5." 

 

Not a lawyer, but I am an RN.  You shoud be pissed off at your physician who also wrote the prescription, if it infact read ".5tsp".  NOT using a leading "0" before a decimal point is an unapproved abbreviation per JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations).; specifically to prevent errors of this kind. 

http://www.jointcommission.org/NR/rdonlyres/2329F8F5-6EC5-4E21-B932-54B2B7D53F00/0/dnu_list.pdf

If I were that pissed off, I'd give my physician a lecture about it. 

 

ETA: Oops, I didn't read all the replies and see that someone already mentioned this...  And after I read it, I sound like I am only blaming the physician.  The blame lies with everyone who screwed up...

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Madelon*sMom replied on 02-22-2010 8:57 PM

ChaiBee:

Why not contact your local media (newspaper/television) and tell their consumer reporters your story?

 

I'm definitely thinking of doing this.  I used to date the anchor of our local news (back in college) - wonder if I should contact him? LOL

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Madelon*sMom replied on 02-22-2010 9:00 PM

girn:

Madelon*sMom:

  Turns out the prescription was written for ".5 tsp" and, as the pharmacist said, "someone accidentally typed in 1.5 instead of .5." 

 

 

Not a lawyer, but I am an RN.  You shoud be pissed off at your physician who also wrote the prescription, if it infact read ".5tsp".  NOT using a leading "0" before a decimal point is an unapproved abbreviation per JCAHO (Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations).; specifically to prevent errors of this kind. 

http://www.jointcommission.org/NR/rdonlyres/2329F8F5-6EC5-4E21-B932-54B2B7D53F00/0/dnu_list.pdf

If I were that pissed off, I'd give my physician a lecture about it. 

 

ETA: Oops, I didn't read all the replies and see that someone already mentioned this...  And after I read it, I sound like I am only blaming the physician.  The blame lies with everyone who screwed up...

Just wanted to add that the ER is the one who wrote the presciption (my pediatrician actually commented later that he thought 22 mos old was too young to prescribed something with codeine in it...).  The prescription was written as:

"(0.5) teaspoon orally"

 

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Mackenzie 3/24/08

 

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girn replied on 02-22-2010 9:08 PM

Okay...nevermind then!  But on a side note, I am very glad your DC is okay and that nothing serious happened from the mistake.

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Madelon*sMom replied on 02-22-2010 9:15 PM

girn:

Okay...nevermind then!  But on a side note, I am very glad your DC is okay and that nothing serious happened from the mistake.

 

Thank you! I don't think I've ever been so thankful before in my life!

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Madelon 4/28/03

Mackenzie 3/24/08

 

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kitcat75 replied on 02-24-2010 5:51 PM

I wonder if the directions were written to mean take ONE half teaspoon as in a single half teaspoon, but because we read 1 1/2 tsp as 1.5 tsp that is where the problem occurred. I think they were wrong to put it as 1 1/2 tsp as that would definitely be misconstrued.

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