AccessPlus® Jury Verdict Case Details
(YY 27/1) MED. MAL.--PHARMACY ADMITS NEGLIGENCE FOR ALLERGIC
Heidi Happel, Kent Happel v Wal-Mart Stores Inc. 02C-7771 (formerly 94L- 12400, 02L-12341) Tried Feb. 9-23, 2007
$465,400 compensatory damages (not guilty on battery/punitive damages claim).
Kenneth C. Chessick and Magdalena Dworak-Mathews of Kenneth C. Chessick M.D. (Schaumburg) for both pltfs DEMAND: $55,000,000 ASKED: $165,000,000
Gregory D. Conforti and Marilyn M. Reidy of Johnson & Bell (AIG) OFFER: $800,000
Dr. David Houlihan (Psychiatrist) and Dr. Peter Bringewald (Neuro-ophthalmologist) for HeidiDr. Trent Davis (Neurologist), Dr. Brian G. Weinshenker (Neurologist), Dr. Ty L. Schwertfeger (Neurologist) and Dr. Zuhair K. Ballas (Allergist)
PLTF EXPERTS: Dr. Alan Hirsch (Neuropsychiatrist) and Toby Clark, R.Ph. of Medical
University of South Carolina, Pharmacy Services, 171 Ashley Ave., Charleston, SC (843-792-2300) (Pharmacist) for Heidi
FACTS: Aug. 4, 1993, Kent Happel picked up his wife Heidi's prescription for Toradol at
the Wal-Mart pharmacy in McHenry, IL. Toradol, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain reliever (NSAID), had been prescribed by Dr. Z. Ted Lorenc for Heidi's severe menstrual cramping. Heidi had been a past customer at the McHenry Wal-Mart pharmacy and she had several medication allergies which would have been documented in Wal-Mart's computer system. She suffered from pre-existing multiple sclerosis, allergies and asthma, and her allergies to various medications included aspirin, Ibuprofen and Tylenol. Toradol is an NSAID like Ibuprofen, so a contraindication warning should have flashed on the pharmacy computer screen once the Toradol prescription was entered into the computer. Toradol should not have been dispensed to the pltf without a call being made to the prescribing physician, but there was no record of such a phone call being made, either at the pharmacy or at the physician's office. Upon receiving the Toradol at home, Heidi looked for the medication instructions and warnings, but found only a blank piece of paper with several bullet points on it. She had experienced previous allergic reactions that required emergency room treatment, including one allergic reaction to a pain medication in the aspirin/ibuprofen family, prior to the date of the occurrence. Without calling her doctor or the pharmacy, she took the pain medication and immediately began to suffer an allergic reaction which worsened over the next half hour and developed into an anaphylactic reaction, causing her to
be taken to the emergency room. Heidi F-26 suffered severe respiratory distress, requiring intubation/ventilation for 15 hours and hospitalization for 4 days. She claimed she sustained anoxia and brain damage, resulting in seizures, memory loss, aphasia, permanent cognitive disabilities, post-traumatic stress disorder, and exacerbation of her multiple sclerosis ($15,400 medl. in evidence out of $130,000+ total, $60,000 LT per year for 20 years totaling $1,200,000 lifetime LT as a minister). Heidi and Kent were both studying theology at the time of the occurrence and are now both Lutheran ministers. Pltfs sought $15 million in compensatory damages and $150 million punitive damages. Defense admitted negligence, but denied Heidi sustained any permanent injury or damage and contended all of her symptoms and complications stemming from the allergic reaction had resolved within a few months of the occurrence. Defense further asserted there was no scientific or other reliable proof from which pltfs' expert could conclude that the multiple sclerosis was exacerbated as a result of the occurrence, and defense successfully barred pltfs' expert from testifying on that subject pursuant to a Daubert motion. As to the battery claim for punitive damages, defense argued Heidi either impliedly or explicitly demonstrated some consent to the contact because she took the medication knowing she had allergies without first calling her doctor or the pharmacist after she admittedly looked for and couldn't locate the instructions. Defense further maintained pltfs did not prove requisite intent to cause a harmful contact on the part of Wal-Mart, since there was some evidence that Wal-Mart had attempted to provide her with instructions and warnings and there was no evidence that a contraindication actually appeared on the computer screen since the pharmacist had no recollection of filling the prescription. The pharmacist was unable to testify at trial due to pre-Alzheimer's dementia; the pharmacy technician is deceased.
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