Nova Scotia

Lawsuit against pharmacy over senior's death can go ahead, judge rules

Lawyers for the defendants argued the case should be stopped because it wasn't filed in time under the Pharmacy Act. A judge ruled otherwise.

Carlton Bond's 90-year-old mother, Bernice Bond, died in June 2016

Bernice Bond is seen in a photo taken at a birthday party shortly before she was hospitalized. (Samantha Rumley)

A Nova Scotia judge has ruled a lawsuit launched by the family of a senior whose death was allegedly caused by a medication prescription error can proceed as planned.

The son of Bernice Bond filed a statement of claim June 15, 2017 — a year after the 90-year-old woman's death — against pharmacist Alexandra Willson, Canso Pharmacy and an unnamed pharmacy assistant.

According to court documents, Bond filled a prescription for an immune system suppressant at Canso Pharmacy on May 3, 2016.

The documents said Willson noticed the assistant had packaged the tablets to be taken once daily each week instead of once a week as prescribed. Willson asked the assistant to remove the extra tablets from the packages. However, this was not done and Willson did not check the packages before they were given to Bond, the documents said.

Bond was admitted to hospital three weeks later and died June 16, 2016. A medical examiner's report in December 2016 concluded Bond died from "an acute overdose of medication," said the documents.

The allegations have not been proven in court.

Too late to file lawsuit?

Carlton Bond, the woman's son, hired a lawyer after the medical examiner's report was released. 

Lawyers for the defendants argued the case should be stopped because under the Pharmacy Act, a lawsuit has to be filed within a year of the "service rendered."

But Bond's lawyer, Raymond Wagner, pointed out his client has a year from the date of death under the Fatal Injuries Act. 

Justice Joshua Arnold ruled this week that allowing the Pharmacy Act limitation to stand would "deprive the plaintiff of a strong claim."

"This was not a case of the plaintiff sitting on his rights and allowing the defendants to believe there was no potential for a claim," Arnold wrote in his decision.

He noted there was "no persuasive evidence of any prejudice to the defendants from allowing the claim to proceed."

'We can proceed now'

In an interview, Wagner said the decision allows the case to continue.

"That means we can proceed now, subject to any appeal, to seek compensation for the loss of Mrs. Bond," he said.

CBC News was unable to reach Kylie Russell, the lawyer for the defendants, for comment.

Wagner said the case points to a broader, "extremely troubling" issue. He said Nova Scotia is the only place in the country, except for Yukon, that does not have a two-year limitation period in its Fatal Injuries Act.

Wagner said two years is more compassionate because it gives families time to grieve and does not force them to deal with civil litigation in the first year.

He plans to write to Nova Scotia's minister of justice and the premier.