Can a pharmacy be held liable for giving your medication to another family member without your permission?

UPDATED: Jul 27, 2011

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Can a pharmacy be held liable for giving your medication to another family member without your permission?

My mother went to our local big chain pharmacy to pick up medications for my father. My father’s name is Andrew and my name is Andrea and we have the same last name. My mother only asked for medications for Andrew, as she didn’t even know that I had a prescription waiting for me. The pharmacy worker gave my mother my prescription, as well as my father’s. This poses 2 issues: 1 – my privacy with the pharmacy has been broken, and 2 – what if my mother didn’t catch the name difference and gave my father my medication?My father has had a heart attack and my meds could’ve caused issues.

Asked on July 27, 2011 New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

While the pharmacy has arguably violated your privacy by accidentally disclosing some of your medical data, it is unlikely that you could recover anything for this--generally, to recover in a lawsuit or legal action, you must have suffered some damage or injury for which you can be compensated, and it's not at all clear that your mother knowing a medicine you are one actually injures in any significant way.

Also, the law does not compensate for "might have beens" or "near misses." IF your father actually took the wrong medicine and was injured, then there very likely would be a cause of action. But the mere fact that he *could* have been injured does not provide any basis for  compensation if he was fortunate enough to not have taken the medicine, or to have taken it and not suffered ill effects.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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