Woman sues jailed pharmacist's insurance company

Saturday, November 23, 2002

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A woman who won a $2.2 billion verdict against Robert Courtney and his pharmacy last month has sued Courtney's insurance company.

The lawsuit was filed this week in Jackson County Circuit Court by Georgia Hayes, a woman whose cancer drugs Courtney diluted. The lawsuit seeks an order directing Pharmacists Mutual Insurance Co. to pay the sum into the court.

Hayes has promised to share any money she receives with the plaintiffs in other lawsuits filed against Courtney.

Pharmacists Mutual issued six insurance policies to Courtney and Robert Courtney Pharmacy Inc., the corporate name of Research Tower Medical Pharmacy. The policies covered various periods from Dec. 8, 1999, to Dec. 8, 2001, and insured Courtney and his pharmacy against liability for bodily injury.

Earlier this year, Pharmacists Mutual filed a lawsuit seeking a judicial declaration that Courtney's policies did not cover his "willful violation" of state laws and regulations. The action, which is pending, names 346 plaintiffs who sued Courtney and his pharmacy.

While denying that Courtney's conduct was covered under its policies, Pharmacists Mutual agreed to defend him and his pharmacy.

Courtney, 50, pleaded guilty in February to criminal charges that he diluted chemotherapy drugs administered to 34 patients, including Hayes. Courtney, who is incarcerated in Leavenworth, is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 5 and faces a maximum of 30 years in prison.

After a two-day trial, Hayes, of Harrisonville, was awarded $225.6 million in actual damages and $2 billion in punitive damages.

Hayes' case was the first --and probably last -- of the civil lawsuits against Courtney and his pharmacy to go to trial. Three days before the trial, drugmakers Eli Lilly and Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., which also were named as defendants in many of the lawsuits, agreed to settle with the plaintiffs for undisclosed terms.

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