SW Legal studies in Business

Pharmacies Have No Duty of Care to Third Parties Arising from Dispensing Prescribed Controlled Substances

Nevada high court held that although numerous pharmacies had been notified that a customer was being given large quantities of a controlled substance, since they were filling proper prescriptions, the pharmacies did not have a duty to protect the general public from the consequences that could arise from improper drug use.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Wrongful death; Duty of Care; Controlled Substances

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

The Prescription Controlled Substance Abuse Prevention Task Force sent letters to pharmacies that had dispensed, and to physicians who had written, prescriptions for Copening, as it was discovered that she had obtained 4,500 hydrocodone pills at 13 different pharmacies. During the time she was using large quantities of the drug and was under the influence, she ran off the road and killed Sanchez who was changing a tire on the side of the road. His heirs sued the pharmacies for wrongful death for having provided Copening so many pills. They continued to dispense Copening pills despite the warning from the Task Force. The district court dismissed the suit for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Plaintiffs appealed.


Affirmed. The pharmacies' actions of dispending prescription drugs to their customer did not create a legal duty on their part to third parties. The prescriptions they received from physicians were properly filled out and submitted. The public policy of monitoring the dispensing of controlled substances, and notifying pharmacies of people receiving large quantities, did not create a duty of care on the part of pharmacies to protect third parties such as Sanchez. The regulations concerning prescription drug dispensing and customer recordkeeping were not intended to protect the general public. That would have been necessary to establish a possible claim of negligence in cases such as this one.

Citation Sanchez v. Wal-Mart Stores, ---P.3d--- (2009 WL 5030703, Sup. Ct., Nev., 2009)

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