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Pharmacy sued over prescription mix-up

A local resident is suing a Powell pharmacy for erroneously filling his prescription for a drug to ward off sleep with a sleep-inducing sedative.

In a suit filed in Park County’s District Court, 61-year-old Ronald Franks alleges a botched prescription and instructions from Powell Drug caused him to get into some minor car crashes and an arrest for driving while under the influence of a controlled substance. The misdemeanor criminal charges were dropped when prosecutors decided Franks probably hadn’t realized what he was taking.

Powell Drug owner and pharmacist Stephen Rogers reportedly told police he gave Franks sleeping pills intended for someone else. However, Rogers told police he correctly warned Franks they were sleeping pills to be taken only before bed.

“There was (an) accidental confusion of names that resulted in a different prescription being dispensed to Mr. Franks, although the prescription name and directions/warnings were correctly identified on the container,” said Rogers’ attorney, Stuart Day of Williams, Porter, Day and Neville of Casper.

In contrast, Franks claims in the suit that he took the first pill on the morning of Jan. 16 as he’d been directed. That afternoon, he ran some errands and became drowsy and incoherent, the suit says.

Franks pulled well onto the sidewalk in front of an East First Street business, then backed his Mercury Sable into a Jeep parked nearby, a police report on the incident says. Franks then reportedly drove to a family member’s house and crashed into their garage door.

Police arrested him there on suspicion of driving while under the influence of a controlled substance, a backing violation and for failing to report the earlier crash. Powell Police Officer Paul Sapp said in his report that Franks appeared to have a difficult time walking, talking and staying awake.

As is customary with DUI arrests, Franks spent the night in jail before being released.

The police report quotes pharmacist Rogers as acknowledging that he mistakenly gave Franks sleeping pills prescribed for someone with a similar name. Officer Sapp said the name on the prescription was “hardly legible,” and that he personally could only make out an R and F.

“I could see how it could have been mistaken,” Sapp wrote.

The suit, filed by Emblem attorney Robert DiLorenzo, says Franks didn’t know he was receiving sleeping pills and thought he was getting a prescribed pill to help him stay awake during the day. The police report, however, quotes Rogers as having specifically told Franks they were not pills for wakefulness and were sleeping pills to be taken only at night.

After reviewing the information from Powell police, Deputy Park County Attorney Tim Blatt decided Franks hadn’t meant to be intoxicated or medicated and dropped the three charges.

“I don’t know whose fault it was and I’m not blaming anybody, but apparently he (Franks) had taken medication (and) he didn’t realize what he was taking — or it may have been the wrong medication — and it caused his poor driving performance that day,” Blatt said.

Franks’ suit alleges Powell Drug and Rogers made a negligent error in a profession that “requires absolute accuracy.”

“As a proximate cause of Defendants’ negligence, (Franks) has suffered monetary damages in the loss of his vehicle, emotional distress, severe embarrassment and humiliation of being arrested and incarcerated, defamation libel and false arrest,” the complaint filed by DiLorenzo states.

Day told the Tribune that Rogers and all the staff at Powell Drug “take their responsibilities very seriously and strive to have no accidents involving prescriptions.

“Powell Drug has been involved in the community for years and during that time has a history of providing exemplary customer service. Powell Drug will continue to strive to provide the level of customer service expected by the members of this community,” Day said.

The parties recently filed notice that they have agreed to try resolving the claim in mediation instead of going through the court system.

The suit has sought $5,235.44 for the damage to Franks’ vehicle, plus unspecified other expenses, costs and damages. The Jeep Franks hit received only minor damage, according to the police report.

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