Family, Pharmacy Settle In Fluoride-related Death

Agreement Pays $845,000 To Man's Survivors

November 27, 1990|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

The family of an Annapolis man who died after drinking stannous fluoride mistakenly offered as water will receive $845,000 under a settlement with an Annapolis pharmacy.

Lewis M. Conn, 73, died after drinking a solution containing 20 percent stannous fluoride, a chemical compound used in dentistry, court records show. An employee at the Nationwide Pharmacy Center Inc. on Forest Drive mistakenly gave Conn the solution after he asked for a cup of water to wash down a penicillin pill.

In a deposition taken in connection with a $6 million suit filed by the family last January, the employee, Rose Summerville, said she poured the liquid from a plastic jug in a refrigerator in the pharmacy's storage room, finding out only later that the jug had been labeled to show it contained stannous fluoride. Summerville describes herself as a "technician" assigned to assist pharmacists.

John R. Newcomb, a pharmacist who is part-owner of the pharmacy, said in a deposition that he had prepared the fluoride for sale to a dentist, and had placed it in the storage room refrigerator because the container was too large for a separate refrigerator used to store medicines.

Hoping to soothe a toothache, Conn purchased prescribed penicillin July 27, 1989 at the pharmacy. Immediately after drinking the stannous fluoride, the man became violently ill and, upon arriving at the Anne Arundel Medical Center, went into cardiac arrest, depriving his brain of oxygen and leading to irreversible brain damage, according to the suit.

Conn remained in intensive care at the hospital until he died Aug. 22, 1989.

The suit was filed in county Circuit Court by the man's widow, Irene Conn, 74, of Annapolis, and three of the couple's children -- Peter Conn, of Miami, Fla.; Paul Conn, of Woodbridge, Va.; and Deborah Conn, of Falls Church, Va., Newcomb, Summerville and an unnamed pharmacist, along with the pharmacy, were named as defendants.

In the suit, the family had charged the pharmacists with recklessness in failing to properly store the fluoride. Each member of the family also sought a wrongful death claim.

The case came to court last Wednesday, but conferences involving lawyers for the two sides and Judge Eugene M. Lerner produced the settlement. The family and the man's estate will receive $845,000 in cash within 30 days, said Alexander Pires, attorney for the family. In return, the family agreed to drop its suit, Pires said.

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