Melissa Morgan vs. Gosney Pharmacy, inc., and D. Brian Gosney, RPh.

Attorney for plaintiff:
Branson L. Wood, III, Esq.
1001 Center Street
Hannibal, Missouri 63401

In a case with significant implications for malpractice law, disability law, and therapeutic jurisprudence, following Dr. Bursztajn’s evaluation and testimony, a plaintiff won a seven-figure damage award against a pharmacy that had mistakenly dispensed the wrong psychiatric medication.

Melissa Morgan, a middle-aged woman who suffered from stabilized schizoaffective disorder, was mistakenly given a very high dose of Topomax (a medication she had not previously taken) by her local pharmacy instead of her prescribed Lamictal. This pharmacy error, of which she was not aware until she had begun taking the medication, left her temporarily without the protective effects of Lamictal and allegedly caused acute ill effects (physical as well as affective and cognitive) that required hospitalization—effects she found all the more frightening because she initially had no idea why they occurred. Alleged ongoing impairments included tardive dyskinesia managed by painful Botox injections, which she would likely need every three months for the rest of her life.

After the judge granted partial summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff, ruling that the pharmacy had dispensed the wrong medication and that this error constituted negligence, the case proceeded to trial on the issues of causation and damages. Dr. Bursztajn, retained as an expert by plaintiff’s counsel, conducted several videolink-enabled forensic neuropsychiatric examinations of the plaintiff. In his reports, consultation, and testimony, he opined that as a result of the abrupt withdrawal of Lamictal and introduction of a high dose of Topomax, Ms. Morgan’s previously well-managed psychiatric disorder had been complicated by ongoing symptoms and impairments in the complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) spectrum, as well as in the spectra of movement disorders, pain disorders, and body-image dysmorphia secondary to iatrogenesis. In her ongoing disfigurement and demoralization, Ms. Morgan had substantially withdrawn from her social and community connections, leaving her vulnerable to prolonged grief in the face of the fragility and losses associated with aging. 

The jury awarded Ms. Morgan $249,023 for past non-economic damages, $730,441 for future medical damages, and $802,407 for future non-economic damages—a total award of $1,781,871. The judge reportedly described this as the largest damage award to date in the county. The case highlights the severity of injury a patient can suffer, extending to all areas of her life, from an iatrogenically caused impairment such as tardive dyskinesia, the risk of which she had been unaware of and thus could not have consented to.