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Civil rights suit against board investigators gets okay to proceed

November/December 2010 Citing a large variance in scores for a single pharmacy and a lack of detailed inspection records, the Supreme Court of Washington in November allowed a pharmacist whose license had been suspended in an emergency proceeding by the State Board of Pharmacy to continue with a civil rights suit against board inspectors

(Michael S. Jones v. The State of Washington, et al.).

The ruling reversed a lower court that had granted the board a summary dismissal of all of the claims brought by pharmacist Michael Jones in response to an emergency board action to shut down Jones’s pharmacy, an action that resulted in the loss of the business and a five-year suspension of Jones’s license.

The case began in December of 1998, when board Inspector Phyllis Wene gave Jones’s pharmacy a score of 79 out of 100, an unsatisfactory total that subjects a pharmacy to discipline if not upgraded to 90 or better at the next inspection. By the time of Wene’s second inspection in February of 1999, Jones had apparently pulled things together and scored a 94.

The events leading to the lawsuit occurred during two later inspections in July and August of 1999. Wene and fellow inspector Stan Jeppesen gave the pharmacy a terrible score, a 48, during an inspection which Jones described as excessively antagonistic, saying “Jeppesen yelled at me and banged his hands on the pharmacy counter while Jones was working, and “Wene and Jeppesen stood on either side of me and made repeated demands in rapid-fire succession.”

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