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Breast Cancer Patient Killed By Walgreens Pharmacy Mistake

April 30th, 2014

A $25.8 million dollar verdict was awarded to a Florida family following a devastating pharmaceutical mistake that robbed a husband of his wife and four children of their mother.

Beth Hippely of Mulberry, Florida was only 42-years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but her doctors gave her a good prognosis and she was responding well to chemotherapy.  A run-of-the-mill request to get a prescription filled changed all of that when Hippely dropped off her doctor’s orders for Warfarin, a blood-thinner, to her local Walgreens pharmacy. Rather than her prescription being filled for 1 milligram tablets as per her doctor’s orders, a 19-year old pharmacy technician filled the bottle with 10 milligram tablets. After 23 days of taking the incorrect dosage, Hippely began experiencing severe headaches and was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center, where it was determined that she’d had a cerebral hemorrhage because her blood had become so thin and had bled into her brain.  She fell into a coma.

Though the mother of four did emerge from her coma, her communication was severely impacted and she was only able to blink her eyes to get information to her caretakers and loved ones.  It was only slowly and with great difficulty that she learned to eat, walk and speak again, and her husband Deane filed suit against Walgreens a year later for negligence.

Unfortunately, as Beth Hippely was recovering from the stroke she had to discontinue her chemotherapy treatment, and was not a candidate for radiation therapy or Tamoxifen. Her cancer returned and her much-weakened body was not able to combat the disease. The cancer spread to her lungs and she died just over four and a half years after the pharmacy’s mistake. The family then sued Walgreens for wrongful death.

In facing the lawsuit, Walgreens admitted to negligence in having prescribed the medication in the wrong dosage, but denied that the mistake was contributory to Beth Hippely’s death.  Though Walgreens appealed the jury’s decision in the case, it was upheld by an appeals court and the family ended up receiving an award of $33.3 million dollars, which included costs and interest.

Florida state law permits pharmacy technicians who have no specific minimum standard of training to fill prescriptions for patients. In the case of Beth Hippely’s prescription, the person who made the mistake was a nineteen-year old who had previously worked at a movie theater, cleaning and selling popcorn.  The pharmacist responsible for supervising the technicians was not aware of the error until three years after it had been made, when the original negligence lawsuit was filed.

Walgreen’s filed an appeal of the $25.8 million dollar award to the Hippely family because they felt that the damage that was given was excessive. They also had objections to the closing remarks made to the jury by the family’s attorney. The award is one of the largest ever for a pharmaceutical error.

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Gavin P. Lentz, Esq.
Bochetto & Lentz

Gavin Lentz (right) was selected as a "Super Lawyer" for 2006-2009 and 2010-2015 in New Jersey by Philadelphia Magazine. He has also been selected as a "Super Lawyer" by Philadelphia Magazine and the Legal Intelligencer in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 - 2015.

On September 16, 2002 Mr. Lentz was selected as one of the top 50 lawyers in Pennsylvania by the Legal Intelligencer.

He has made many television appearances, including on Fox News, The Today Show, Inside Edition, and The Phil Donahue Show.

Mr. Lentz is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

As a former prosecutor, he knows how to aggressively go after large pharmacy chains to prove the facts necessary to protect your loved one's rights.

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