Albert v. Sheeley’s Drug Store, Inc.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s application of the in pari delicto doctrine, which precludes plaintiffs from recovering damages if their cause of action is based at least partially on their own illegal conduct. Zachary called Sheeley’s pretending to be his mother and asked about refilling an OxyContin prescription. The pharmacist told the caller that the OxyContin prescription could not be filled yet, but that there was a prescription for fentanyl patches ready to be picked up. The caller told the pharmacist that they wanted to send Zachary to pick up the patches and stated that he did not have a driver’s license or other form of identification. The pharmacist told the caller that this would not be a problem, since he personally knew and would recognize Zachary. Cody drove Zachary to Sheeley’s, where Zachary successfully picked up his mother’s medication even though, according to Zachary, the pharmacy receipt explicitly stated, “Do not give to son.” After arriving at Zachary’s house, Cody consumed fentanyl from one of the patches, smoked marijuana, and then fell asleep on the couch. Later that night, Zachary tried to wake Cody, but he was unresponsive. Cody was later pronounced dead at a hospital. Zachary eventually pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and multiple drug offenses in connection with Cody’s overdose. Cody’s father, Dale Albert, filed a negligence suit against Sheeley’s—both individually and on behalf of his son’s estate. The complaint alleged that Sheeley’s negligently allowed Zachary to pick up his mother’s fentanyl prescription, which proximately caused Cody’s overdose and death. Sheeley’s sought summary judgment, arguing that the suit was barred by the wrongful conduct rule, otherwise known as the in pari delicto doctrine. The trial court granted Sheeley’s summary judgment motion. The Superior and Supreme Courts affirmed, ruling that Cody’s criminal conduct directly resulted in his death, while Sheeley’s conduct—dispensing a controlled substance to Cody’s friend—is several links removed in the chain of causation.

Search entire site by keyword...

Search for Summaries by Hashtag...

Past Opinion Summaries