McKee v. American Home Products, Corp.

Decision Date30 November 1989
Docket NumberNo. 53941-3,53941-3
Citation113 Wn.2d 701,782 P.2d 1045
Parties, 58 USLW 2352, Prod.Liab.Rep. (CCH) P 12,399 Elaine McKEE, Appellant, v. AMERICAN HOME PRODUCTS, CORPORATION, Ayerst Laboratories, Inc., Jerry Sidran, Leonard Mezistrano and Michael Shanahan, M.D., Respondents.
CourtWashington Supreme Court
McDermott & Jones, P.S., Stephen J. Dwyer, Richard F. McDermott, Jr., Bellevue, for appellant

Carney, Stephenson, Badley, Smith, Mueller & Spellman, P.S., Palmer Robinson, James E. Horne, Seattle, for respondent Sidran.

Lee, Smart, Cook, Martin & Patterson, P.S., John Patrick Cook, Timothy A. Reid, David L. Martin, Seattle, for respondent Mezistrano.

Gary N. Bloom, Bryan P. Harnetiaux, Spokane, amicus curiae for appellant on Behalf of Washington State Trial Lawyers Ass'n Ronald S. Dinning, Bruce P. Lamb, Joseph D. Puckett, Stephan J. Francks, Paul R. Cressman, Seattle, amicus curiae for respondents on Behalf of Washington State Pharmacists' Ass'n.

CALLOW, Chief Justice.

The plaintiff, Elaine McKee, appeals a summary judgment dismissing her cause of action against defendant pharmacists Gerald Sidran and Leonard Mezistrano. The trial court ruled that the pharmacists, who had filled McKee's drug prescriptions for 10 years, had no duty to warn her of the adverse side effects of long-term administration of that drug. We affirm.

From 1974 through 1984 McKee received prescriptions for Plegine, an appetite suppressant, from her family physician to control an ostensible weight problem. Plegine is an amphetamine and is potentially addictive. It is a class III drug, requiring either an oral or written prescription from a physician each time it is filled. WAC 360-36-010 and WAC 360-36-020. The manufacturer's information contained in the Physician's Desk Reference (1984) (PDR) states, among other things, that Plegine "is indicated in the management of exogenous obesity as a short term adjunct (a few weeks) ..." It further warns:

Amphetamines and related stimulant drugs have been extensively abused, and the possibility of abuse of PLEGINE should be kept in mind when evaluating the desirability of including a drug as part of a weight reduction program....

Tolerance to the anorectic effect of PLEGINE ... develops within a few weeks. When this occurs, its use should be discontinued ...

The desk reference for physicians also lists various side effects from overuse, such as: extreme fatigue and mental depression after abrupt cessation, intense psychological dependence and severe social dysfunction, and at an extreme, psychosis. 1 McKee's prescriptions were for 100 tablets each. The manufacturer packaged Plegine in 100-tablet bottles; attached to the outside of each was the manufacturer's package insert. Before giving McKee a bottle of Plegine, the pharmacists would remove the package insert and place their own label on the bottle to comply with state and federal labeling laws. 2 It is undisputed that at no time did either pharmacist warn McKee of the possible side effects of extended use of Plegine or give her the manufacturer's insert.

                McKee filled nearly all her Plegine prescriptions at a pharmacy in Seward Park in Seattle.   From 1974 through 1981, the prescriptions were filled by Sidran, who owned the pharmacy.   In April 1981, Sidran sold the pharmacy to Mezistrano, who continued to fill McKee's prescriptions until they were discontinued by a second physician in 1984.   It is undisputed that the pharmacists filled the prescriptions accurately and pursuant to either a written prescription or oral refill authorization from McKee's physician

In 1985, McKee brought this action against the prescribing physician, the drug manufacturer, and the defendant pharmacists, seeking damages for physical and psychological injuries allegedly sustained as a result of her addiction to Plegine. Only the claims against the pharmacists are at issue in this appeal.

McKee alleged the pharmacists were negligent in selling her Plegine for such an extended length of time without warning her of its adverse effects and were negligent in failing to give her the manufacturer's package insert. She also alleged strict liability and breach of express and implied warranties. The pharmacists moved for summary Initially we note that McKee did not assign error to the trial court's dismissal of her strict liability and breach of warranty claims, as required by RAP 10.3. Aside from citing the Product Liability Act and arguing that the defendant pharmacists are "product manufacturers" thereunder, McKee provides no argument or legal authority in support of her strict liability and breach of warranty claims. We will not consider issues on appeal that are not raised by an assignment of error or are not supported by argument and citation of authority. Transamerica Ins. Group v. United Pac. Ins. Co., 92 Wash.2d 21, 28-29, 593 P.2d 156 (1979). Therefore, we will address McKee's negligence claim only.

                judgment and dismissal of all claims against them, contending they had no duty to warn their customers of the potential hazards of a prescription drug.   The trial court granted the pharmacists' motion and dismissed McKee's claims.   We granted direct review

A summary judgment motion may be granted under CR 56(c) only if the pleadings, affidavits, depositions, and admissions on file demonstrate there is no genuine issue concerning any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Wilson v. Steinbach, 98 Wash.2d 434, 437, 656 P.2d 1030 (1982); Barrie v. Hosts of Am., Inc., 94 Wash.2d 640, 646, 618 P.2d 96 (1980). All facts submitted and all reasonable inferences from the facts must be considered by the court in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Wilson, 96 Wash.2d at 437, 656 P.2d 1030; Yakima Fruit & Cold Storage Co. v. Central Heating & Plumbing Co., 81 Wash.2d 528, 530, 503 P.2d 108 (1972); Barber v. Bankers Life & Cas. Co., 81 Wash.2d 140, 142, 500 P.2d 88 (1972). Motions for summary judgment should only be granted, if reasonable persons could only reach but one conclusion from all the evidence. Wilson, 96 Wash.2d at 437, 656 P.2d 1030; Morris v. McNicol, 83 Wash.2d 491, 494-95, 519 P.2d 7 (1974).

                For purposes of CR 56(e) the affidavit must:  (1) be made on personal knowledge, (2) set forth admissible evidentiary facts, and (3) affirmatively show that the affiant is competent to testify to the matters stated therein.  Bernal v. American Honda Motor Co., 87 Wash.2d 406, 412, 553 P.2d 107 (1976);  Meadows v. Grant's Auto Brokers, Inc., 71 Wash.2d 874, 878, 431 P.2d 216 (1967).   Competency to testify can reasonably be found by the trial court.  Bernal, 87 Wash.2d at 413, 553 P.2d 107.   Furthermore, "[t]he qualifications of an expert are to be judged by the trial court, and its determination will not be set aside in the absence of a showing of abuse of discretion."  Bernal, at 413, 553 P.2d 107, quoting Nordstrom v. White Metal Rolling & Stamping Corp., 75 Wash.2d 629, 642, 453 P.2d 619 (1969).

The gravamen of this case is whether the plaintiff met her burden under RCW 7.70.040, 3 of proving the defendants failure to exercise the degree of care, skill, and learning expected of a reasonably prudent pharmacist licensed in the State of Washington at the time.

The only evidence offered by McKee concerning the standard of care of a pharmacist practicing in Washington was an affidavit of an Arizona physician. The physician was not licensed to practice medicine in Washington, nor was he a pharmacist. We recently reiterated the rule that to establish the standard of care required of professional practitioners, that standard must be established by the testimony of experts who practice in the same field. The duty of physicians must be set forth by a physician, the duty of structural engineers by a structural engineer and that of any expert must be proven by one practicing in the same field-- The trial court determined that no genuine issues of material fact remained. Therefore, the moving parties were entitled to judgment as a matter of law. We have thoroughly reviewed all the pleadings, affidavits, depositions and admissions on file and affirm the granting of the summary judgment by the trial court.

                by one's peer.  Young v. Key Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 112 Wash.2d 216, 770 P.2d 182 (1989).   So here, only a pharmacist who knew the practice and standard of care in this state could establish the standard of care for the defendants.   Contrary to the requirements of RCW 7.70.040 the affidavit does not assert the standard of care of a pharmacist in this state.   Therefore, for purposes of CR 56(e) the affidavit does not show that the affiant was qualified to prove the standard of care of a pharmacist in the State of Washington.

While we need go no further, it is appropriate that we discuss the merits of the primary issue raised because of the importance of the issue and the public interest therein. McKee contends the pharmacists had a duty to warn her of the harmful side effects of long-term use of Plegine, and that she should recover from the defendants under RCW 7.70.030(1). Recovery is provided under RCW 7.70.030(1) where: "[t]hat injury resulted from the failure of a health care provider to follow the accepted standard of care[.]"

Chapter 7.70 of the RCW outlines actions for injuries resulting from health care. A pharmacist is defined as a health care provider under RCW 7.70.020. RCW 7.70.030 requires that the plaintiff prove each fact essential to an award by a preponderance of the evidence.

The elements required to prove that an injury resulted from a failure to follow the accepted standard of care are stated in RCW 7.70.040. Although a pharmacist's duty to warn of potential hazards associated with a prescription drug is an issue of first impression in Washington, we choose to join the majority of those states with statutes similar to RCW 7.70.040 which have addressed this issue [A]...

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