Court rules family can sue Walgreens over woman's death after insurance denial

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on June 7 overturned a Superior Court decision and allowed a lawsuit against Walgreens by the family of a woman who died after failing to receive her medication to move forward. Yarushka Rivera had epilepsy and took a drug to manage her life-threatening seizures.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on June 7 overturned a Superior Court decision and allowed a lawsuit against Walgreens by the family of a woman who died after failing to receive her medication to move forward. Yarushka Rivera had epilepsy and took a drug to manage her life-threatening seizures. After Rivera turned age 19 years, her insurer would not cover the cost of the drug without a doctor's pre-authorization for insurance coverage. While the family was unable to get the prescription filled, Walgreens said it would fax Rivera's doctor to request the pre-authorization form. The family never got the paper work or the medication, despite what they felt were promises from the pharmacy and despite the family's repeated calls to the doctor's office. Without her medicine, Rivera had three seizures and died in October 2009. In 2012 the family sued Walgreens, the doctor, and his group practice, alleging wrongful death. After a series of legal maneuvers, in the current case, Walgreens moved for summary judgment on the grounds that it had no legal obligation to contact the doctor. In March 2017, the Superior Court agreed with a lower court ruling and sided with Walgreens. However, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court wrote that Walgreens had a "limited duty to take reasonable steps to notify both Rivera and [her doctor] of the need for prior authorization each time Rivera tried to fill her prescription."