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Tennessee Appeals Court Rules in Plaintiff’s Favor on Pre-Trial Motion in Case Involving Allegedly Dangerous Drug

Knoxville medical malpractice cases and product liability lawsuits are typically quite different – different theories of liability, different possible defendants, and different possible damages. It is rare that these two types of cases get “mixed up” or combined into a single lawsuit. However, there are a few exceptions to this general rule. A recent case explores a scenario in which the parties disagreed about the ultimate nature of a lawsuit – and, hence, possible defenses to the plaintiff’s claims – against a doctor, a pharmacy, and some others resulting from an allegedly dangerous prescription medication taken by the plaintiff.

Facts of the Case

The primarily plaintiff in a recent appellate case was a man who was prescribed a certain medication for his diabetes in 2014. The following summer, the Food and Drug Administration issued a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy to warn of the risk of acute pancreatitis for those using the medication. According to the complaint filed by the plaintiff (joined by his wife), he was not warned of this risk by any of the defendants (a doctor, two medical groups, a home delivery pharmacy, and others). The plaintiff was later diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, sepsis, and acute respiratory failure; additional hospitalizations followed, as did a fall that occurred when the plaintiff was in a weakened physical state and which resulted in a severe traumatic brain injury.

The plaintiff’s lawsuit, filed in the Knox County Circuit Court, alleged that he had been damaged as a result of the acute pancreatitis and a subsequent traumatic brain injury caused by his use of the prescription medication and his medical providers’ failure to appropriately “prescribe, counsel, provide, utilize, and/or discontinue this medication.” The plaintiff alleged claims of both strict liability and simple negligence against the manufacturer of the medication; he also asserted health care liability claims against the other defendants. The home delivery pharmacy filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint based upon the “seller shield statute” of the Tennessee Product Liability Act, codified at Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-28-106. The trial court denied the motion.

Decision of the Court

Stating the issue as whether, where a plaintiff’s complaint asserted a claim under the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act against a pharmacy and/or pharmacist, were the pharmacy/pharmacist able to assert the “seller shield” defense contained in the state’s product liability act, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville affirmed the trial court’s denial of the defendant’s  motion to dismiss. In so holding, the court noted that the trial court had determined – and the pharmacy had conceded – that all of the plaintiff’s claims fell under the health care liability act rather than the product liability act. The court then opined that a “natural and reasonable reading” of the “seller shield” law demonstrated that it only applied to product liability actions, not health care liability actions. The court of appeals also noted that the health care liability act applied to all health care providers, including pharmacies and pharmacists, and contained no limitation based on seller immunity.

Speak to an East Tennessee Injury Attorney

Cases involving medical malpractice, pharmaceutical negligence, or product liability take considerable time, skill, and legal expertise. If you have been hurt by a doctor’s malpractice, a faulty product, or an individual or business’s negligence and need to talk to a knowledgeable Knoxville medical malpractice and personal injury attorney, contact the Hartsoe Law Firm at 865-524-5657.

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