Cowhey Family Supermarket asks court to dismiss pharmacist's whistleblower lawsuit

By Carrie Salls | Nov 2, 2017

PHILADELPHIA – Cowhey Family Supermarket LP is asking the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to dismiss a lawsuit filed against it by a former employee who alleges she was fired by the company in violation of the False Claims Act and the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law.

According to Cowhey Family Supermarket’s Sept. 22 dismissal motion, Susan Ritter’s complaint “cites only one specific incident in which one of defendant’s customers allegedly attempted to fill a forged prescription.” 

From that single incident, the company said Ritter determined that fellow pharmacist Ken Zeladonis’ practices "present a very high risk that customers receiving narcotics…will either divert, abuse, or misuse the (narcotics) and that Mr. Zeladonis likely knew or had reason to know of'” the related risks.

The lawsuit was filed on June 28 by Ritter. A July 26 story in the Pennsylvania Record said Ritter worked for Cowhey Family Supermarket as a part-time pharmacist. She was fired on Jan. 30 and alleges that she was terminated after she claimed that a colleague was making false insurance claims and illegally dispensing narcotics.

Cowhey Family Supermarket said Ritter took her concerns about Zeladonis’ actions to her supervisor, “who generally shared plaintiff’s concerns.”

In addition, Ritter claims she witnessed several other Cowhey Family Supermarket customers trying to fill prescriptions for narcotics that were “written by multiple doctors and were filled at multiple pharmacies,” but she “does not allege how she knows this to be true or how it amounts to fraud on the government, wrongdoing or waste.”

After taking her concerns to her superiors at the pharmacy and two supervisors allegedly agreeing with Ritter that “they, individually, would no longer fill different strengths of the same medication,” Cowhey Family Supermarket said Ritter’s supervisor discussed the matter with the company’s director of administrative operations and human relations, who was allegedly “unreceptive to their concerns and wrongfully terminated the plaintiff shortly thereafter.”

“Despite these assertions, plaintiff’s complaint is devoid of sufficient factual allegations to substantiate her claims under the False Claims Act and the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Statute," the dismissal motion said.

Ritter is seeking a trial by jury, back wages and front pay of at least $150,000, compensatory damages and lost benefits, punitive damages, interest and court costs.

Cowhey Family Supermarket is represented by Gordon, Fournaris and Mammarella in Wilmington, Delaware and by Rubin, Fortunato and Harbison PC in Paoli. Murphy Law Group in Philadelphia is representing Ritter.

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