PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Superior Court judge awarded former State Senator Leo Blais most of his legal fees from a legal battle involving his pharmacy license, and Blais is seeking extensive damages in a lawsuit filed against the state, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.
Court documents indicate Blais had initially sought $63,323 in fees, but Judge Daniel Procaccini awarded him $43,140 in connection with a case that dates back four years and involved a pair of children who ingested stomach medication tainted with morphine.
Blais’s license was initially suspended, but on July 16, 2013, Department of Health Director Dr. Michael Fine overruled the Board of Pharmacy and permanently revoked the license. Blais, a Coventry Republican, was in the state senate for 18 years but lost his 2010 re-election bid by 23 votes.
In November of 2014, Judge Stephen Nugent ruled, “Director Fine acted in excess of his statutory authority and abused his discretion in revoking the license.”
Court documents stated the court, “recognized that pharmacists cannot be held to a standard of perfection.”
Fine’s decision would have been the only time a pharmacist’s license was revoked for a dispensing error, according to Judge Procaccini’s decision.
Blais’s attorney, Michael Kelly, said he expects his client’s lawsuit to be in court by the fall.
“Fine knew he was over-stepping his authority but he did it anyway,” Kelly said. “The damages were significant.”
Kelly said Blais will seek in excess of $500,000 from the state.
The case started with a complaint filed with the Department of Health on March 14, 2012, by Jeffrey and Erin Norman whose infant was prescribed acid reflux medicine that inadvertently contained morphine. The child was hospitalized but survived.
The investigation revealed a second child had also ingested the tainted medicine that had been compounded at Apothecare, where Blais was the pharmacist in charge.
Jeffrey Norman, whose child is now heading into kindergarten, said he was appalled that Blais would get legal fees, let alone sue for damages.
“Blais did this to himself,” Norman said. “Every taxpayer should be upset by this. I think Doctor Fine made the right decision.”
Blais was out of state and unavailable for comment.
Department of Health Public Information Officer Joseph Wendelken said his department accepts Judge Procaccini’s ruling on the legal fees.
“As a part of our work to prevent disease and promote health throughout the state, the Rhode Island Department of Health holds all licensees to extremely high standards and will continue to work to ensure the highest quality care for all Rhode Islanders,” Wendelken said.