Picture of John Day

§47.17 Duty of Pharmacist

The Case: Dooley v. Everett , 805 S.W.2d 380 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1990).

The Basic Facts: A young boy was prescribed two drugs which interacted with one another and resulted in brain damage. A lawsuit was filed against the physician who ordered the two drugs and against the pharmacy which filled the prescriptions.

The Bottom Line:

  • "Legal duty means that which the law requires to be done or forborne to a determinate person or to the public at large and a correlative to a right vested in such person or the public at large. Dabbs v. Tennessee Valley Auth., [250 S.W.2d 67 (Tenn. 1952)]. A duty rests on everyone to use due care under the attendant circumstances, and negligence is doing what a reasonable and prudent person would not do under the given circumstances. Dixon v. Lobenstein, [132 S.W.2d 215 (Tenn. 1939)]." 805 S.W.2d at 384.
  • "Duty in the context of a case where negligence is alleged raises the question of whether the defendant is under any obligation required by law for the benefit of the particular plaintiff. [57A Am. Jur. 2d Negligence §§ 84, 85 (1989)]. Standard of care refers to what a defendant 'must do, or must not do…to satisfy the duty.' Id. at § 85." Id.
  • "Generally Revco owes its customer a duty to use due care under attendant circumstances. That is, Revco owes a duty to its customer to refrain from negligently doing or failing to do an act which would injure its customer. The pharmacist has a duty to act with due, ordinary, care and diligence in compounding and selling drugs. Batiste v. American Home Products Corp., [231 S.E.2d 269, 273-274 (N.C. Ct. App. 1977)]." Id.
  • "Whether there is a duty owed by one person to another is a question of law to be decided by the court. However, once a duty is established, the scope of the duty or the standard of care is a question of fact to be decided by the trier of fact." Id.
  • "Our Supreme Court, in Wood v. Clapp, 36 Tenn (4 Sneed) 65 (1856), a case in which a surgeon was sued for alleged malpractice, stated in part as follows:
    [A]ny one who assumes to be qualified for the exercise of any profession, art, or vocation, is responsible for any damage which may result to those who employ him from the want of the necessary and proper knowledge, skill, and science which such profession demands. A man who enters upon the legal profession and solicits business, is required to have such an amount of legal learning as will enable him to discharge with reasonable skill and ability the duties incumbent upon him in his profession. If, from the want of such knowledge and skill, or a proper degree of industry, diligence, and attention to the business entrusted to him, his client sustains injury, he is responsible in damages. The same rule applies to a physician. He impliedly contracts with those who employ him that he has such skill, science, and information as will enable him properly and judiciously to perform the duties of his calling. If he should be deficient in these respects, he has violated his contract, and must account, in damages, for any malpractice by which those employ him sustain injury. This is the general rule applicable to all professions and avocations in which men are employed to act for others in any particular department of business requiring skill, art, or science. The law does not, however, require the highest degree of skill and science, but only such reasonable degree as will enable the person safely and discreetly to discharge the duties assumed. The failure of a course of treatment is not by any means conclusive of that want of professional skill by the practitioner; such a rule would be harsh and unreasonable in application to any art or profession, and endanger the most faithful and best-informed.
    Id. at 66-67 (emphasis in original)." Id.
  • "Professionals are judged according to the standard of care required by their profession. In Delmar Vineyards v. Timmons, [486 S.W.2d 914, 920 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1972)], the Court stated: 'The standard of care applicable to the conduct of audits by public accountants is the same as that applied to doctors, lawyers, architects, engineers, and others furnishing skilled services for compensation and that standard requires reasonable care and competence therein.' See Cleckner v. Dale, [719 S.W.2d 535 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1986)] (Attorney must exercise the degree of care and diligence which is commonly possessed and exercised by attorneys practicing in the same jurisdiction.); Truan v. Smith, 578 S.W.2d 73 (Tenn. 1979) (Physicians must exercise reasonable and ordinary care commensurate with his skill and knowledge.).

    [RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF TORTS, § 229A (1965)] provides:
    Unless he represents that he has a greater or less skill or knowledge, one who undertakes to render services in the practice of a profession or trade is required to exercise the skill and knowledge normally possessed by members of that profession or trade in good standing in similar communities.
    We do not think it is subject to question that the practice of pharmacy is a profession. The Pharmacy Practice Act, in pertinent part, provides as follows:
    (d) The practice of pharmacy in this state is declared a professional practice affecting the public health, safety and welfare and is subject to regulation and control in the public interest and concern that the practice of pharmacy, as defined in this chapter, merit and receive the confidence of the public and that only qualified persons be permitted to practice pharmacy in this state.

    (e) As used in this chapter:

    (6) 'Practice of pharmacy' means the practice of that profession concerned with the art and science of preparing, compounding and dispensing of drugs and devices, whether dispensed on the prescription of a medical practitioner or legally dispensed or sold directly to the ultimate consumer, and includes the proper and safe storage and distribution of drugs, the maintenance of proper records therefore, and the responsibility of relating information as required concerning such drugs and medicines and their therapeutic values and uses in the treatment and prevention of disease. The "practice of pharmacy" does not include the operations of a manufacturer or wholesaler if properly licensed as such….
    Tenn. Code Ann. § 63-10-101(d) and (e)(6)." Id. at 384-85.
  • "The pharmacist is a professional who has a duty to his customer to exercise the standard of care required by the pharmacy profession in the same or similar communities as the community in which he practices his profession." Id. at 385.
  • "There is a disputed issue of fact in the record regarding whether the duty of care to discover and warn customers of potential drug interactions is included within the general scope of the duties a Tennessee pharmacist owes to its customers." Id.

Other Sources of Note: Pittman v. Upjohn , 890 S.W.2d 425 (Tenn. 1994) (Dooley affirmed, but pharmacist did not breach duty under the facts).

After an accident, many injury victims and their families want more information on the accident and their legal rights. Consequently, many of them have found their way to these pages. While we are happy you are here, please understand Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law was written to be a quick, invaluable reference for Tennessee tort lawyers. While the book provides the leading case for more than 300 tort law subjects and thousands of related case citations, it is not a substitute for personalized legal advice from a qualified lawyer.

Rather than researching these legal issues alone, we urge you to contact one of our award-winning lawyers who can sit down with you, review your case, answer your questions and clearly explain your rights and your options in a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced attorneys handle all personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency basis, so we only get paid if we win. If for any reason you are unable to come to our office, we will gladly come to you.

To schedule an appointment, contact us online or call us at 615-742-4880 or toll-free at 866-812-8787.



The foregoing is an excerpt from Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law, published by John A. Day, Civil Trial Specialist, Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, recipient of Best Lawyers in America recognition, Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ rated attorney, and Top 100 Tennessee Mid-South Super Lawyers designee. Read John’s full bio here.

To order a copy of the book, visit www.dayontortsbook.com. John also blogs regularly on key issues for tort lawyers. To subscribe to the Day on Torts blog, visit www.dayontorts.com.

Client Reviews
Everything was great. You guys are a great representative. I was satisfied with everything. Truly appreciate John Day and his hard-working staff.
★★★★★
We thought that you did an excellent job in representing us in our lawsuit. We would recommend you to anyone. Mitch Deese
★★★★★
The Law Offices of John Day is, without a doubt, the best in Nashville! They treated me with the utmost respect and tended to my every need. No question went unanswered. I was always kept informed of every step in the process. I received phenomenal results; I couldn't ask for more. I would definitely hire the Law Offices of John Day again. Anthony Santiago
★★★★★
I would definitely recommend to anyone to hire John Day's law firm because everyone was helpful, made everything clear and got the job done. I am satisfied with how my case was handled. June Keomahavong
★★★★★
It's been a long battle but this firm has been very efficient and has done a remarkable job for me! I highly recommend them to anyone needing legal assistance. Everyone has always been very kind and kept me informed of all actions promptly. Linda Bush
★★★★★
I had a great experience with the Law Offices of John Day. The staff was very accommodating, and my phone calls/emails were always responded to in a timely manner. They made the entire process very easy and stress-free for me, and I had confidence that my case was in good hands. I am very happy with the results, and I highly recommend! Casey Hutchinson
★★★★★