Rye Pharmacist Sued For Negligence In Student Extern's Death

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James Yoo lived in Flushing, Queens.
James Yoo lived in Flushing, Queens. Photo Credit: Contributed

RYE, N.Y. – A Rye pharmacist is being sued for negligence in the death of a St. John’s University graduate student, who worked as an extern at his pharmacy and was exposed to a dangerous drug his first week on the job.

James Yoo, 22, was last seen by workers at Rockwell Compounding Associates putting away inventory, including fentanyl – a powerful painkiller. He was later found collapsed on the floor, the family’s lawyer Joshua Grobber said, citing the police report.

The autopsy report showed Yoo, of Queens, died of transdermal absorption, indicating he came into contact with the fentanyl, which can be transmitted through the skin.

Gropper said he had been working there three or four days starting the first week of February 2013 and the lawsuit, filed in late May, says Pharmacist Steven Cosentino should have offered better supervision.

He was exposed to the fentanyl Feb. 7, 2013 and died six days later, according to the suit. 

In addition to Cosentino and Rockwell Compounding Associates, St. John’s University (College of Pharmacy and Health Services) is named as a defendant. 

Its doctorate students must complete an externship to graduate. The suit claims it did not place Yoo in a “safe and properly supervised work environment with competent and responsible pharmacists and personnel.”

Consentino was put on probation for one year in 2002 for “selling drugs to physicians who are not the ultimate user for whom said drugs were intended.” Since Yoo’s death, Consentino and his pharmacy’s licenses were suspended in January 2014 for compounding drugs without patient prescriptions. 

The lawsuit states that St. John’s should have known placing Yoo and its other students as externs with Consentino was “reckless and improper.”

“The lawsuit is against the pharmacist and the pharmacy for improper training and supervision,” Gropper said. “But, also against St. John’s for not properly vetting the pharmacy, which not only had a prior history of problems, but were currently under investigation when Mr. Yoo was placed there.”

A call was placed to Rockwell Compounding, which has a recorded message that seems to gone unchanged since last year. It said it's clean rooms was temporarily out of order due to recent storms and local power outages. St. John's did not immediately return a call for comment. 

Yoo’s family seeks punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial, together with interest and the costs of taking this action.

“The family is more concerned about not so much getting rich but deterring other schools and other pharmacies from this kind of practice and trying to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again,” Gropper said.

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