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Tort Law in the Robert Ray Courtney Legal Case


One of the major sub-branches found in law is that of the law of Tort. Unlike the other branches, the law of Tort entails civil wrongs that have been committed to an individual thereby causing harm (Showlter, 2007, p. 73). The law of tort has found its way commonly in the society because of the many negligent and intentional acts that people commit without knowing that they could pose great harm to the other people. Therefore, Tort may be defined as a breach of civil duty that is owed to an individual. Some of the civil wrongs under ort law include trespassing, piracy, and environmental pollution just to mention but a few. Tort law is however divided into three groups depending on the nature of transgression. These include; intentional torts which involve deliberate causation of harm, negligent torts brought about by negligent behavior for instance malpractice in the medical field and lastly the strict liability torts such as those that occur while in the place of work whereby the employer is liable (Ashley, 2004, p. 2). This paper is therefore an analysis of the legal concept of Tort law with an in-depth analysis of a case on Tort.

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The legal concept of tort

As discussed above, tort is an act whereby civil law is breached thereby causing harm to the affected party. Therefore, torts are described as civil wrongs in legal terms (Pozgar, 2007, p. 109). The fact that torts usually cause harm to the injured person, they have the right to sue for damages. In some instances, the wrongdoer of a tort is eligible to civil as well as criminal penalties depending on the type of wrong for instance the act of battery can be a tort and a crime. The damages to be paid are usually based on the extent of the injury cased on the affected party. There are two methods used by the plaintiff to recover the damages from the wrongdoer of tort. The first one is by determining the value of property before and after the tort. Alternatively, the plaintiff may seek damages for the costs of restoring the property to its original state. Punitive damages may also be recovered in the event that the tort is intentional (Pozgar, 2007, p. 112).

In some instances, immunity is granted to some of the wrongdoers of torts. In immunity, the wrongdoer seeks special protection which could be from the government, parents or children, educational institutions among others. In the event that the committer of tort seeks immunity, they are not eligible to pay the damages as they will be protected by the law.

Research and assessment of the case to find sufficient evidence to suggest that this was an intentional tort

The case of Robert Ray Courtney is a perfect example of a case on intentional tort. This is because there are several evidences indicating that Robert Courtney caused intentional harm on the patients, doctors and the entire society. The idea of Robert diverting from the authorized practices of his pharmaceutical company and turn to illegal businesses is a clear indication of illegality against the law. Instead of offering good drugs to the society, Robert opted to buying fake drugs and then diluting them with the genuine ones so as to increase his profits. This showed how selfish Robert was and only wanted to benefit without bothering on the impact the fake drugs could have on the health of the patients. The tort committed is clearly intentional due to the fact that he knew that he was dealing with fake drugs and still decided to sell them after diluting with the genuine ones (Showlter, 2007, p. 91). Furthermore, since he was a pharmacist, he very well knew that the fake drugs would have health impacts on the patients and in some instances leading to death because of lack of action in the body or the deviation from the required normal concentration levels. This is evidenced from the quantitative and qualitative tests carried out by the Dr. Verda’s nurses as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Food Drug Administration. His actions therefore indicate that he had committed intentional tort that was punishable under both civil and criminal law.

Who was impacted by his actions?

The actions of Robert Courtney had great impacts on the patients using his drugs, the doctors giving prescriptions and the society as a whole. The patients on taking such drug types become at risk of deteriorating their health to even death. This is because the fake drugs would not cause healing hence making the patient’s condition to progress thus no healing. The fake drugs could on the other hand lead to death in case of difference in concentration levels or the drug interactions. At the same time they could lead to other emergent conditions which might crop up as a result of taking such drugs. The doctors are also affected as they were mistaken for giving wrong prescriptions yet it was the pharmacist’s mistake. His workers were also impacted by his actions whether or not they were aware of his mischievous behavior. This is because of the mare reason that they were definitely part of the pharmacy management and operations thus deemed to be part of the scandal. Therefore, the actions of Robert Courtney had great impacts on a number of people as depicted from the discussion.

Were there any lawsuits filed as a result of his actions

From the details of the case, it is seen that there were lawsuits that were filed against Robert Courtney by Dr. Verda Hunter who was a regular customer of the pharmacy. Dr. Verda after the suspicion and proof of his findings, he decided to report the matter to the healthcare authorities who had the drugs once again tested to prove the claims. Once the claims were justified, Robert Courtney was arrested and later taken to court where a ruling was made to have him imprisoned for 30 years. This was to serve as an example to the other medical care professionals who sacrifice human health for their own material gain.

The Doctrine of Respondent Superior and if it applies in this case

The Doctrine of Respondent or rather the legal concept of vicarious liability occur when a tort or civil wrong is committed by a servant or employee yet the employer or owner is held responsible for their acts despite the fact that they employer has nothing to do with the wrongs committed (Regan,, 2002, p. 1). This doctrine is not applicable in this case as the defendant Robert Courtney was the owner of the pharmacy and at the same time the wrongdoer or the committer of the crime. Despite the fact that the employees of the pharmacy were also wrong, they are not sued unlike Robert Courtney therefore making it impossible to apply Doctrine of Respondent Superior in this case. Henceforth, since it was Robert Courtney who was sued alone and proved guilty, he faces the damages and punishment alone.

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From the discussion of the case above, it is evident that Robert Courtney was indeed guilty of committing the offence and more so while knowing thus it is intentional tort. The case also indicates an instance whereby a wrongdoing may end up being ruled under civil and criminal law (Pozgar, 2007, p. 124). Robert Courtney in his actions of diluting fake with genuine drugs posed harm to the patients while at the same time it was a criminal offence as it is like stealing from people and posing people’s health at risk of death. This is evidenced from the large investments and spending he made from the business’s income. Therefore the ruling of the court can be said to be in accordance with the law as the punishment of being imprisoned would deter him from his malpractice, teach him a good lesson and serve as a warning to other medical practitioners who would want to benefit at the expense of people’s health.

Reference List

Ashley, R. (2004). The fourth element of negligence. Critical Care Nurse, 24(4), 78-79. Web.

Pozgar, G. (2007). Legal aspects of health care administration (10th ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Regan, J. (2002). Medical Malpractice and Respondent Superior. Web.

Showlter, J. (2007). The law of healthcare administration (5th ed.). Chicago, IL: Health Administration Press.

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