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As noted in Chapter 3, causation is basically the bridge between breach of duty and the resultant related injury. The causation component of negligence is not always straightforward and, thus, must take into account all the surrounding facts to determine if the resultant injury was foreseeable and linked to the breach of duty.

In this chapter, several pharmacy-related cases are presented that attempt to carefully analyze whether or not the causation link between the breach of duty and the resultant injury are clearly connected. Remember, some causation issues are objectively quite clear, such as in the case where a pharmacist incorrectly fills a prescription for a patient and one of the major side effects is drowsiness—an effect he would not experience if his prescription were filled with the correct drug. After taking the drug, the patient falls asleep while driving, gets into a serious accident, and is badly injured as a result.

From the simple facts in this hypothetical case, it appears more than likely that the furnishing of the wrong drug with the clear side effect of drowsiness was responsible for resultant injury. Certainly other facts may come into play: Did he drink alcohol after taking the drugimage When did he take the drugimage How many times before the accident did he take this wrong drug whereby he would have experienced the drowsiness effectimage Was there some other independent intervening effectimage Was there another driver involved who may have contributed to the serious accidentimage Many of these other facts or factors may either help dismiss the case against the defendant pharmacist or mitigate the damages in a comparative negligence arrangement.

In a proximate causation analysis, generally one looks to the element of foreseeability—was the resultant injury to the plaintiff foreseeable based upon the defendant’s breach of dutyimage In Chapter 5, the McLaughlin v. Hook’s SuperX, Inc. case was presented to demonstrate whether or not the pharmacist owed a duty to the plaintiff McLaughlin. In that case, the court came to the conclusion that the pharmacist did owe McLaughlin a duty. The McLaughlin case also goes on to determine whether or not the breach of the pharmacist’s duty of filling the propoxyphene prescription at a rate faster than what was authorized by the prescriber was the proximate cause of placing the plaintiff in a depressed state sufficient to cause him to attempt to commit suicide. Review the facts of that case in Chapter 5 in order to understand the proximate causation analysis the court discusses later.


Supreme Court of Indiana 642 N.E.2d 514; 1994 Ind.

Review Facts Presented in Chapter 5

Court’s Analysis on Causation Issue: The court addresses the foreseeability by making the statement, “It is not disputed here that one who consumes sufficient quantities of addictive substances may become addicted to them, and that such an addiction carries with it ...

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