7th Circuit Reverses $1 Million CVS Verdict for Indiana Doctor in Pill Mill Case

Monday, June 11, 2018
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On May 10, 2018, the Seventh Circuit reversed an Indiana jury’s finding that CVS Pharmacy Inc. (CVS) owed $1 million to a doctor. The plaintiff, Dr. Anthony Mimms, claimed the pharmacy defamed him when it refused to fill his patients’ prescriptions in 2013. The Circuit court ruled the trial judge blocked key evidence supporting suspicions the doctor ran an opioid mill and sending part of the case back for retrial.


The Defamation Case.

A three-judge panel agreed with CVS that there was no triable evidence on three out of four claims that staffers had actual malice by refusing to fill his patients’ prescriptions. CVS staff informed customers that the doctor faced possible arrest and suggested his pain-management practice, Mimms Functional Rehabilitation was a pill mill. Actual malice, or saying things one knows are false or with reckless disregard for their falsity, must be proved to support a defamation claim, according to the opinion.

The panel also found that other allegedly defamatory statements CVS staff made about Dr. Mimms should never have gone to the jury at all in the 2017 trial. They should have been eliminated from consideration as a matter of law when CVS moved for summary judgment, the panel stated. Therefore, three allegedly defamatory statements were eliminated as a matter of law, leaving only  “Dr. Mimms is under DEA investigation” as raising triable issues and remanding it for a second trial.


Justified Key Evidence.


The panel further found that the trial court abused its discretion in barring several pieces of key evidence that would have at least explained, if not justified, why workers would make such a statement. This evidence included a government agent’s testimony in a previous criminal trial that the DEA was investigating the doctor and evidence that a clinic he once worked at had been subpoenaed.

The district court also should have allowed CVS to present evidence regarding his reputation, the panel found. This was a defamation case and any evidence of the pharmacist’s poor professional reputation would have been critical in terms of determining and minimizing damages.

To read the court’s opinion in full, click here.

Similarly to this case, in 2011, CVS refused to fill patients’ prescriptions for some doctors in Florida. Click here to read my prior blog and learn more.


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with DEA Cases.


The Health Law Firm represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses, and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Department of Health (DOH), and other law enforcement agencies.

If you are aware of an investigation of you or your practice, or if you have been contacted by the DEA or DOH, contact an experienced health law attorney immediately.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


Sources:


Petrick, Joe. “7th Circ. Undoes $1M CVS Verdict In 'Pill Mill' Doc Case.” Law360. (May 10, 2018). Web.

Stafford, Dave. “Indianapolis doctor wins defamation judgment against CVS.” The Indiana Lawyer. (January 4, 2017). Web.


About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.


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6/11/2018

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