Walgreen Ordered to Pay $6 Million to Family of OD Victim

October 26, 2007

The Arizona family of a high-school wrestling coach who died of an interaction between two pain medicines has won a $6 million wrongful death award from pharmacy company Walgreen Co.

Lawyers for the family of Coconino High School coach Eric W. Warren argued that the Walgreens pharmacist who filled his prescriptions should have warned Warren and his doctor that the drugs shouldn’t be used together. Technicians should have received a computer warning of the interactions, they argued.

Walgreen countered that Warren was negligent and caused his own death or that his doctor was negligent in prescribing the medication.

Warren was found dead in his home on Dec. 22, 2002. An autopsy determined he died from a toxic interaction of the pain medicines Tramadol and Methadone, which he was taking for severe pain.

Warren was being treated by his family doctor, Ronald E. Parfitt, who reached a separate settlement with the family.

The jury concluded that Warren was 1 percent responsible for his own death, Parfitt was 2 percent responsible, and Walgreens was 97 percent responsible, according to court documents. It awarded $2 million each to Warren’s two children and $1 million each to Warren’s parents.

Coconino County Superior Court staff said it was one of the largest civil suit verdicts ever in the county.

“It quieted suspicions that have been haunting the family for years that Eric killed himself,” Tom Shorall Jr., one of the Warren family attorneys, said. “Because it was a fatal interaction of drugs, there were always concerns … that there were people in the community who may have perceived Eric’s death as something other than accidental.”

A spokesperson for Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreen, Michael Polzin, said an appeal is being planned.

“We didn’t believe there was any negligence on our part, and we were surprised by the outcome of the case,” Polzin said.

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