Opioid Ruling Nothing New; There's Ample Precedent

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Decision Again Shows How Law Suits Can Be Used to Attack Major Health Problems

WASHINGTON - eTradeWire -- Opioid Ruling Nothing New; There's Ample Precedent
Decision Again Shows How Law Suits Can Attack Health Problems

WASHINGTON, D.C. (November 24, 2021) -  The verdict of a jury that three large pharmacy chains were a legal cause of opioid overdoses and deaths is not unprecedented, but it will open the door and provide encouragement for similar life-saving suits across the country, predicts public interest law professor John Banzhaf.

He says that this is simply the latest example of how legal actions can be a very effective tool in fighting major public health problems, noting that his own legal actions regarding smoking and also obesity have helped to save millions of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars in unnecessary costs, many of which would otherwise have to be paid by nonsmokers and those who are not obese.

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The law professor cites as precedent for patient actions against druggists one where a prescription which was filled called for excessive quantities or dosages, another where a prescription was repeatedly renewed at such an excessive rate that the pharmacist should have suspected drug abuse, and a third where a druggist failed to warn an alcoholic customer that a drug could cause problems if used with alcohol.

Moreover, in a case which is closer to the facts of the opioid cases, and more consistent with the practices of large pharmacies, a court held that a pharmacy had a legal duty to use its computer system to protect the safety of its customers, especially since it had claimed such a benefit in its advertising.

For those wondering how customers can win if they themselves were negligent - e.g., did not exercise the care of a reasonably prudent person - Banzhaf says there are at least two answers.

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One is a case which held that the appropriate standard for judging possible contributory negligence is that of a reasonably prudent person who suffers from an addiction.

The other is that the law generally no longer bars actions where a plaintiff was also negligent; in most cases permitting the blame to be shared between the two parties.

The same major arguments - contributory negligence and/or assumption of risk - were also repeatedly raised when smokers (or their heirs) sued cigarette manufacturers.

But Banzhaf and others developed a new successful legal theory and tactic.

Legal actions can be a powerful weapon against major public health problems, he says.  Sometimes lawyers can rely upon existing precedents, and sometimes they have to create new legal theories to meet new problems.

http://banzhaf.net/   jbanzhaf3ATgmail.com   @profbanzhaf

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Source: Public Interest Law Professor John Banzhaf
Filed Under: Legal

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