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What Are Grounds for a Pharmacy Malpractice Claim?

As a pharmacy owner or pharmacist, you have a key role ensuring the health and lives of patients by properly administering medication. However, various errors like reading a prescription incorrectly or mixing up labels can result in a patient suffering serious harm or, in some cases, death. In such unfortunate cases, patients or their families may be compelled to file a lawsuit against your pharmacy or pharmacist(s) to recover damages.

It’s important to understand how evidence of negligence by the pharmacist needs to be constructed for someone to successfully file a pharmacy malpractice claim against you. Let’s take a look at the four elements that constitute a negligent act.

Existence of Duty

Pharmacist helping a patient

It must be proven that the pharmacy or pharmacist assumed or owed some duty to the patient. In other words, the pharmacy or pharmacist must have established a relationship with the patient through some sort of transaction or agreement. For example, when a patient takes a prescription to a pharmacist to be filled, the pharmacist owes that patient a duty once that prescription is taken from the patient.

A pharmacist’s duty is to practice to the highest degree of care and diligence when filling a prescription. This extreme duty of care ensures that patients are taking medication properly to avoid serious injury, hospitalization, or death.

Breach of Duty

When a violation of the pharmacist’s duty occurs, the pharmacy and/or pharmacist can face liability for damages. A duty can be breached in one of two ways:

  1. Nonfeasance: The required duty is not performed
  2. Malfeasance: The activity is performed, but it is incomplete or incorrectly done

Examples of a breach of duty include dispensing an incorrect drug, improper or incorrect labeling and/or instructions, wrong dosage, or lack of patient and drug review.

A pharmacist’s duty not only covers providing the correct prescription in the appropriate dosage with the correct labeling, but also to advise the patient on potential dangerous side effects of the drug. Giving adequate counseling and additional information, either verbal or written, is an integral part of this duty. A pharmacy or pharmacist can be held responsible for injuries or death if they do not properly warn their patients of this potential harm.

Presence of Damages

Patient in pain

The patient can show damages by presenting losses due to the harm to their body or mind as a result of pharmaceutical negligence. Examples of such losses include medical bills, loss of income, rehabilitation fees, loss of services (household or marital), pain and suffering, loss of life, and punitive damages.

Pain and suffering damages are designed to compensate the patient for the pain suffered from the negligent pharmacist’s actions. For example, the patient became nauseous and fell or they experienced an allergic reaction.

The pharmacy can also be liable for punitive damages in cases of extreme negligence. Punitive damage awards are often sought to serve as an example and to send a message to other organizations from acting the same way.


It can sometimes be difficult to determine whether the symptoms the patient is experiencing is a result of the pharmacy error or because of a pre-existing condition or some other cause. For example, a rise in blood pressure could be a result of the incorrect medication or, possibly, an underlying condition. In other cases, the causation is easier to identify. For example, if the patient was given a sleeping pill instead of a laxative, and the patient fell asleep while operating heavy machinery and suffered bodily injury, the cause is more likely because of the medication mishap. Thus, it must be proven that the pharmacist’s inability to do their duty caused the patient harm.


These four key elements make up the grounds for a pharmacy malpractice case. By being aware of these concepts, you can prevent serious consequences. Learn more about pharmacy malpractice to know what to look out for and how to avoid it. If you are facing a pharmacy malpractice lawsuit, contact us today for experienced representation and defense.