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The duty owed under certain statutes or regulations is to the person for whom the prescription was written, the pharmacy's customer, if anyone, and not for the general public's protection. And although various statutory and regulatory provisions may express standards of care for the practice of pharmacology, those standards of care do not extend to unidentified third parties.
The underlying matter arose after a pharmacy customer, while driving under the influence of prescription drugs, allegedly caused an automobile accident resulting in one person's death and severe injuries to another. Appellants filed a wrongful death and personal injury complaint against, among others, respondent pharmacies that filled multiple prescriptions for the woman driving the car. The appellants claimed that because the pharmacies had knowledge of the woman's prescription-filling activities, the pharmacies owed appellants a duty of care to not fill the woman's prescriptions. The pharmacies filed a motion to dismiss the action, which the district court granted after finding that the pharmacies did not owe appellants a statutory duty of care, and thus, that appellants' claims failed to state a valid cause of action. The families argued that the district court improperly dismissed their common-law negligence claims.
Did a pharmacy owe a duty of care to unidentified third parties who were injured by a pharmacy customer who was driving while under the influence of controlled prescription drugs?
The supreme court found that the pharmacies did not owe a duty to the third-party families as they had no direct relationship with the families. The pharmacies' acts of dispensing prescription drugs to the patron did not create a legal duty. Neither Nev. Rev. Stat. § 453.1545's plain language nor its legislative history demonstrated that the Legislature intended to impose any obligation on pharmacies in favor of third parties. The standards of care imposed on pharmacies did not extend to unidentified third parties.