If I nearly died from liver failure caused from a medication I was required to take overseas and have recovered but can’t get life insurance for my autistic son because of the liver issue, is this actionable?

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If I nearly died from liver failure caused from a medication I was required to take overseas and have recovered but can’t get life insurance for my autistic son because of the liver issue, is this actionable?

I’m was a remote duty paramedic working overseas, as well as the single father of an autistic son. About a year and a half ago when returning from work I felt ill. Ultimately I went to my doctor, he did blood work, and long story short about 3 days later I was told that I was terminal and would only survive another day or so at most. During this time my company paid my medical bills per my insurance with them and when they found out that the medication caused my illness were full of promises that as soon as I got well and settled with my son my wife was dying of cancer at the same time that they’d get me right back to work, on any contract that I wanted. I tried to get life insurance for my son as but was denied partly because I smoke cigarettes but mostly because of my liver issues. They’re completely resolved now and I have a statement from the CDC saying that the failure was caused by the medication I was taking. They don’t want to talk to me now, I have little money, and my son has no security for his future because I can’t get him life insurance. Can I sue? And if so, what kind of damages might be appropriate? I’m not looking to abuse our legal system, but it seems that as they were dishonest about the safety of the medication, as well as their willingness to put me back to work so that I can care for my son properly, that they should have some liability or responsibility?

Asked on April 13, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Arizona

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Your employer would not be liable, or responsible, for the medication unless and only if you could show that they were aware of a significant risk or danger from taking it, but despite being aware of that risk, required you to take it. In that instance, their requiring you to take something with a known risk or threat could qualify as the sort of negligence, or reasonable carelessness, that would make them liable for your losses or costs. But without knowledge of a significant risk, detrimental side effect, etc. they are not liable, since without knowledge of a risk they ignored, they did nothing wrong.
You may be able to bring a product liability case against the drug manufacturer if there was a defect in manufacture (e.g. contamination) which caused your problems, or if the medicine had siginficiant risks or side effects which they did not adequately test for, take steps to eliminate, or warn about, and/or if the medicine was so risky it should not have been used. But if the medicine was generally safe and you just happened to have an unusual or atypical or rare reaction, they, too, would most likely not be liable: it is the nature of drugs and medicines that most have some risk or side effects associated with them, and manufacturers are only liable if on the balance, the risks exceed the rewards/gains, the medicine is inappropriately risky or harmful, and/or they do not warn/advise of the risks. Be aware, though, that a case against a drug manufacturer can be an expensive, long undertaking--consult with an attorney at length and weigh carefully the costs, odds of winning, etc. before embarking on this.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Your employer would not be liable, or responsible, for the medication unless and only if you could show that they were aware of a significant risk or danger from taking it, but despite being aware of that risk, required you to take it. In that instance, their requiring you to take something with a known risk or threat could qualify as the sort of negligence, or reasonable carelessness, that would make them liable for your losses or costs. But without knowledge of a significant risk, detrimental side effect, etc. they are not liable, since without knowledge of a risk they ignored, they did nothing wrong.
You may be able to bring a product liability case against the drug manufacturer if there was a defect in manufacture (e.g. contamination) which caused your problems, or if the medicine had siginficiant risks or side effects which they did not adequately test for, take steps to eliminate, or warn about, and/or if the medicine was so risky it should not have been used. But if the medicine was generally safe and you just happened to have an unusual or atypical or rare reaction, they, too, would most likely not be liable: it is the nature of drugs and medicines that most have some risk or side effects associated with them, and manufacturers are only liable if on the balance, the risks exceed the rewards/gains, the medicine is inappropriately risky or harmful, and/or they do not warn/advise of the risks. Be aware, though, that a case against a drug manufacturer can be an expensive, long undertaking--consult with an attorney at length and weigh carefully the costs, odds of winning, etc. before embarking on this.


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