Cliff Haines of Philadelphia. In this case, the plaintiff was an unmarried 43-year-old diagnosed with depression when the defendant psychiatrist prescribed Desyrel, generically known as Trazodone, for his condition. The plaintiff had the prescription filled at the defendant drug store by the defendant pharmacist. The plaintiff testified that he had taken the medication for ten days when he awoke one morning in October, 1996, with a painful erection. The plaintiff testified that he delayed seeking medical attention until the following morning because he did not realize the seriousness of his condition nor the need for prompt treatment. The plaintiff then sought treatment at the defendant hospital's emergency room and was treated by the defendant urologist. The plaintiff's expert urologist testified that the plaintiff faced an urological emergency which required immediate surgery to insert a shunt. However, because of a delay in the performance of the surgery, the plaintiff's expert testified that the plaintiff was left with permanent sexual impotency.
The plaintiff contended that the patient advisory letter which was provided by the defendant drug store when the prescription was filled was inadequate because it failed to warn of the necessity for immediate medical care in the event a priapism was experienced. The advisory listed prolonged painful erection as one of the unlikely side effects of the drug, but did not advise that prompt medical care was required for the condition.
The defendant pharmacist testified that he would not ordinarily give verbal warnings about possible side effects of a prescription unless the customer asked a specific question. The defendant's pharmacy expert testified that although pharmacists are expected to warn customers of common side effects of prescription drugs, there was no duty for them to warn of every rare side effect. The defendant's expert testified that priapism occurs only once in every 7,000 to 10,000 patients taking Trazodone.
The defendants also argued that the plaintiff's impotency resulted from his delay in seeking medical assistance and not as a result of the treatment rendered. The defendant's experts suggested that additional surgical procedures may be able to correct the plaintiff's impotence.
After a ten day trial, the jury found the defendant drug store 13% negligent, but found that the defendant pharmacist was not negligent. The defendant urologist was found 47% negligent and the defendant psychiatrist was found 40% negligent. The jury found that the plaintiff was negligent, but that his negligence was not a substantial factor in causing his injury. The plaintiff was awarded $ 10,500,000 in damages. However, agreements reached between the parties during jury deliberations capped the plaintiff's recovery at $ 1,025,000.
The physicians involved in this medical malpractice action did not dispute that the plaintiff experienced a urological emergency requiring immediate treatment. However, the reasons for the delay in performance of the surgery were one of the main issues at trial. The plaintiff had waited some 24 hours before seeking treatment, alleging that the defendant pharmacist and his treating psychiatrist failed to warn him of the importance of immediate treatment in the event of such a reaction. Although the jury determined that the defendant drug store was 13% negligence, it found the defendant pharmacist not negligent. This conclusion was apparently based on the jury's belief that the warnings contained in the patient advisory letter accompanying the prescription were insufficient and that the drug store, not the pharmacist, was responsible for the inadequacy.
The jury placed a large percentage of the responsibility for the plaintiff's lack of understanding upon his treating psychiatrist, finding this defendant 40% negligent even though the testimony established that the priapism suffered by the plaintiff occurs only once in every 7,000 to 10,000 cases. Most of the culpability for the plaintiff's medical care was placed upon the defendant urologist, who was found 47% negligent. During jury deliberations, the plaintiff accepted the defendant drug store's settlement offer of $ 250,000 and also settled with the treating psychiatrist for $ 375,000, a total joint tortfeasor settlement of $ 625,000. The Philadelphia plaintiff's attorneys that handled this case did an excellent job for their client. As part of these negotiations, the plaintiff also agreed to cap the liability of the defendant urologist and hospital at their primary insurance coverage of $ 200,000 each. Accordingly, the plaintiff's total recovery was $ 1,025,000 despite the jury award of $ 10.5 million.
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