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Walter v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Walter was diagnosed with cancer and prescribed Chlorambucil. Walter went to Wal-Mart to fill the prescription. Lovin, the pharmacist was Wal-Mart provided Walter with Melphalen, a much stronger drug. Lovin did not counsel Walter about the new drug, but only provided her with a piece of paper with information. Walter began bruising, obtaining rashes, and feeling nauseas. Later, Walter called her doctor, and the doctor told her to stop taking the medication. That same day, Walter was taking to the hospital and hospitalized for gastrointestinal bleeding. Walter endured a substantial amount of medical bills. Thus, Walter brought suit to recover the damages. The lower court held in Walter’s favor. Wal-Mart appeals. 

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A plaintiff is entitled to a judgment and a compensatory award when the evidence of liability is overwhelming and the evidence of the harm establishes a rational basis for the damages.

    Facts.

    Antoinette Walter, an eighty-year-old woman, was diagnosed with cancer. Her oncologist, Stephen Ross, prescribed her Chlorambucil, a generic chemotherapy drug with the brand name Leukeran. Walter went to a Wal-Mart store in Maine to fill the prescription. At Wal-Mart, the pharmacist, Henry Lovin, did not fill Walter’s prescription with Chlorambucil or Leukeran.However,Lovin filled the presciption with Melphalen, which is a far stronger chemotherapy drug. Due to its strength and negative effects, doctors would Melphalenin smaller doses, for shorter periods, compared to Chlorambucil. When Walter received the refill, Lovin did not counsel Walter about Melphalen. Instead, Lovin only provided a paper with information about the drug. When Waltertook the prescribed dosage, she began to feel nauseas and obtained bruises and rashes. Although the paper with information hat Walter received from Lovin stated to contact the patient if the patient experienced bruising or rashing, Walter decided to wait a few days to contact Ross. When she spoke to Ross, Ross instructed her to stop the medication. Later that day, Walter was hospitalized for gastrointestinal bleeding. Walter was in the hospital for five weeks, and she had several infections, was unable to eat, and began to experience other problems associated with a weakened immune system. When the hospital allowed Walter’s release, she left the hospital in a considerably weaker physical and mental state. Due to the Melphalen, Walter’s cancer had decreased, but Walter’s medical bills increased to $71,042.63. Walter brought Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. for malpractice. At trial, Lovin testified he failed to meet the standard of care for pharmacist when he dispersed the wrong drug without undergoing appropriate procedures and without to Walter directly. Also, Lovin testified that Walter did not have a reason to doubt whether she had received the correct drug. Upon the conclusion of the trial, the judge granted Walter judgment as a matter of law and the jury awarded her $550,000. Wal-Mart appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether a plaintiff is entitled to a judgment and a compensatory award when the evidence of liability is overwhelming and the evidence of the harm establishes a rational basis for the damages.

    Held.

    Yes, a plaintiff is entitled to a judgment and a compensatory award when the evidence of liability is overwhelming and the evidence of the harm establishes a rational basis for the damages.

    Concurrence.

    Not provided in casebook excerpt.

    Discussion.

    A plaintiff is entitled to a judgment and a compensatory award when the evidence of liability is overwhelming and the evidence of the harm establishes a rational basis for the damages. Based the laws of Maine, the evidence overwhelmingly supports that Wal-Mart is liable because a pharmacist’s duty of care is the “highest practicable degree” of care, applying the “most exact and reliable safeguards.” Also, Lovin’s testimony established that he failed to meet that standard or care. Although Maine law encompasses a comparative negligence statute, the judge properly did not provide the jury with comparative negligence instructions. Lovin’s testimony clearly revealed that Walter did not have a reason doubt that she was receiving the correct drug. Likewise, the judge properly instructed the jury to evaluate Walter’s possible negligence in failing to contact her doctor immediately. Therefore, the trial court’s judgment is affirmed.


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