Gipson v. Kasey

In Gipson v. Kasey, 214 Ariz. 141, 143,10, 150 P.3d 228, 230 (2007), the supreme court considered whether persons who are prescribed medications owe a duty of care when they improperly give those medications to others for whom the medications were not prescribed. Id. at 142,1, 150 P.3d at 229. The court held that evaluating whether an injury to a particular plaintiff was foreseeable by the defendant requires a fact-specific inquiry reserved for the jury, id. at 144,16, 150 P.3d at 231, and therefore foreseeability "is more properly applied to the factual determinations of breach and causation than to the legal determination of duty." Id. at 144,17, 150 P.3d at 231. The Arizona Supreme Court held an employee who gave prescription drugs to a co-worker owed a duty of care to the co-worker -- who later died from a drug overdose -- based on public policy reflected by criminal statutes that prohibited the distribution of prescription drugs to those not covered by the prescription. Id. at 146,26, 150 P.3d at 233. The court considered two possible bases for a duty: (1) the relationship between the parties and; (2) public policy considerations. Id. at 144-46,18-26, 150 P.3d at 231-33. The court expressly rejected foreseeability as a factor in determining duty. Id. at 144,15, 150 P.3d at 231. Although duties of care can arise from special relationships, the court explained duty is a legal matter, not a factual one, and determinations of duty should not be based on a "fact-specific analysis" of the relationship between the parties. Id. at 145,20-21, 150 P.3d at 232. Public policy may be found in state statutes and the common law. Id. at 146 n.4,24, 150 P.3d at 233 n.4. In Gipson v. Kasey, the defendant gave the decedent's girlfriend, Watters, eight pills of Oxycontin and Oxycodone for recreational purposes. Id. at 237, P 4, 129 P.3d at 959. The defendant thought that Followill, the decedent, was "too stupid and immature to take drugs like that," but also knew that Watters was likely to give him the pills. Id. at PP 4-5. Followill indeed took the pills from Watters, and died overnight from a lethal combination of alcohol and Oxycodone. Id. at 237-38, PP 5-8, 129 P.3d at 959-60. The court stated: Thus, in evaluating whether the two intervening acts were unforeseeable and extraordinary, we must consider whether Watters' act of giving the pills to Followill might "reasonably be expected to occur now and then," and whether Followill's act of ingesting some or all of the pills, along with the alcohol, might similarly be expected to occur now and then. Id. at 243, P 34, 129 P.3d at 965. The court declared that Watters' and Followill's intervening acts were "not so clearly unforeseeable that we can declare as a matter of law that any fault on the part of Kasey was not the proximate cause of Followill's death." Id. at P 34.