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Massachusetts Court Discusses Qualifications of Expert Witnesses in Personal Injury Cases

Pharmacists owe a duty to their customers to ensure that prescriptions are accurately filled and that any relevant health information, such as allergies, is considered prior to dispensing medication. If a pharmacist negligently fails to heed a warning in a customer’s health history that a certain medication is contraindicated, and dispenses the medication to the customer regardless, the pharmacy may be liable for any harm the customer suffers. The customer must prove that the harm was the result of the pharmacist’s negligence, however, and as shown in a recent case, if the customer fails to do so his or her claim may be dismissed. If you sustained harm because of a pharmacist’s negligence you should speak with a skillful Massachusetts personal injury attorney regarding what you must prove to recover compensation for your injuries.

Factual Background of the Case

Reportedly, the plaintiff visited his physician due to a head cold. He was prescribed a quinolone antibiotic, which he took to the defendant drugstore to have filed. Although there was nothing in the prescribing physician’s records indicating the plaintiff had a quinoline allergy, there was a “hardstop” warning in the defendant pharmacist’s database that the plaintiff was allergic to quinolones. Upon investigation, however, the pharmacist on duty found notes stating that plaintiff had previously been prescribed quinolines and that he denied having a quinoline allergy on numerous occasions. As such, the pharmacist decided to dispense the antibiotic to the plaintiff.

It is alleged that the plaintiff ultimately suffered an allergic reaction to the drug. Additionally, he alleged in caused him to suffer Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, a serious skin disorder. The plaintiff filed a complaint against the pharmacy alleging, claims of negligence, product liability, and unfair trade practices. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, and a motion to preclude the plaintiff’s expert from testifying. The court granted the defendant’s motion and the plaintiff appealed.

Standard for Admitting Expert Testimony

In Massachusetts, a witness will be qualified to testify as an expert if he or she has specialized knowledge, skill, training, or experience that may help the fact finder determine issues of fact or understand evidence, and his or her testimony is based on adequate facts and reliable principles, that the witness has appropriately applied to the facts of the case. In analyzing whether a person is qualified to testify as an expert, the court must assess whether the purported expert is qualified by training, skill, education, or experience and whether the subject matter of the witness’s proposed testimony concerns specialized knowledge such as scientific or technical matters. The court must also determine whether the proposed testimony will aid the fact finder, by evaluating whether it is relevant and based on a reliable foundation.

In the subject case, the court found that the plaintiff’s expert was not qualified to testify as to whether the pharmacist breached the standard of care. Specifically, the court noted that the plaintiff’s expert testified that he was not able to offer an expert opinion on the appropriate standard of care and was basing his opinion on the report of the plaintiff’s treating physician. Additionally, the court found that the plaintiff had insufficient facts and evidence to support his claims against the defendant. As such, the court affirmed the trial court ruling.

Speak with an Assertive Attorney Regarding Your Injury

If you suffered harm because of an inappropriate prescription you should speak with a Massachusetts personal injury attorney regarding your injuries and what compensation you may be able to recover for your harm. The zealous attorneys of Karsner & Meehan will aggressively pursue the full amount of damages you may be able to recover. We can be reached through our form online or at 508-822-6600 to schedule a meeting regarding your case.