In this week's Alabama Law Weekly Update, we report on two decisions from the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals: The first concerns an employee's attempt to receive workers' compensation for injuries sustained at her site of employment and the second addresses the scope of the Alabama State Board of Pharmacy's authority to impose sanctions on nonresident, mail-order pharmacies maintaining pharmacy permits from the Board for violations of non-Alabama state laws.

Dana Louise Pollock v. Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama, Inc., No. 2130538, CV-13-901481 (Ala. Civ. App. Feb. 27, 2015) (Employee is not entitled to compensation under the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act because employee's injury from horseback ride did not arise out of or occur in the course of her employment with employer)

Dana Louise Pollock (“Pollock”) suffered an injury to her back while horseback riding at Camp Scoutshire Woods, a summer camp operated by the Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama, Inc. (“GSSA”). At the time of her injury, Pollock was employed by GSSA as a business manager and an assistant to the director of the camp. After the incident causing her injury, Pollock filed suit in the Circuit Court of Mobile County, seeking compensation and benefits under the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act (“Act”). The Circuit Court entered a summary judgment in favor of GSSA.

An employee may be entitled to compensation under the Act for injuries (a) arising out of his or her employment and (b) occurring in the course of his or her employment. The claimant seeking such compensation under the Act must prove a causal connection between the claimant's duties as an employee and the injuries instigating such claim. In determining whether injuries arose from the claimant's employment, the presiding court assesses whether the injuries arose from a risk or danger incidental to the claimant's employment, whether the injuries occurred during a period of employment, whether the injuries occurred at a place where the claimant is normally located during work hours, and whether the injuries occurred while the employee was reasonably fulfilling the duties of or incidental to his or her employment. The presiding court assesses a variety of factors when determining whether an activity occurs during the course of employment including, but not limited to, the customary nature of the activity, the employer's encouragement of such activity, whether the employer or its supervisors oversaw the activity, and whether the employer received a benefit from such activity.

In affirming the Circuit Court's ruling, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals ruled that Pollock was not entitled to compensation and benefits under the Act because her injury did not arise out of or occur during the course of her employment with GSSA. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed that the horseback ride was a voluntary recreational activity unrelated to Pollock's employment duties for the following reasons:  (1) GSSA received no economic benefit from the employee's recreational activity; (2) Pollock's decision to participate in the horseback ride was voluntary and not encouraged by GSSA even though Pollock received permission to participate in the horseback ride from her immediate supervisor; (3) Pollock's responsibilities as business manager and assistant to the camp director did not include horseback riding or any related activity; (4) horseback riding was not a customary activity since Pollock had not participated in horseback riding during the previous summer; and (5) neither GSSA nor its supervisors organized or supervised the horseback ride.

Serve You Custom Prescription Management v. Alabama State Board of Pharmacy,
No. 2130524, CV-13-901272 (Ala. Civ. App. Feb. 27, 2015) (Alabama State Board of Pharmacy maintains authority to impose sanctions on nonresident, mail-order pharmacies maintaining pharmacy permits from the Board for violations of non-Alabama state laws)

The Alabama State Board of Pharmacy (“Board”) imposed sanctions and fines on Serve You Custom Prescription Management (“Serve You”), a Wisconsin based mail-order pharmacy maintaining a permit required by the Board to perform pharmacy services in Alabama, for violating §§ 34-23-33(a)(2), 34-23-33(a)(6), and 20-2-54(a)(4) of the Alabama Code. Serve You's violations of such Code provisions were based on Serve You's entry of a “Stipulation and Final Agency Order” with the State of Colorado as a result of Serve You's violations of the Colorado Electronic Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. In entering such Stipulation, Serve You admitted that it failed to submit certain data required by the Colorado Electronic Prescription Drug Monitoring Program regarding transactions of controlled substances in the State of Colorado.

Serve You challenged the Board's sanctions by filing suit in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County. The Circuit Court subsequently granted a summary judgment motion filed by the Board. On appeal, Serve You presented a host of arguments: the Board does not have the statutory authority to impose such sanctions on Serve You because it is a nonresident mail-order pharmacy, Serve You is not subject to § 34-23-33(a) because it is not a pharmacist and does not operate in Alabama, and Serve You is not subject to § 34-23-33(a)(2) because Serve You violated Colorado law, not Alabama law.

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals held that the Board has the statutory authority to discipline Serve You, a nonresident, mail-order pharmacy maintaining a permit to perform pharmacy services in Alabama, because the provisions of the Alabama Code granting the Board its authority do not exempt nonresident, mail-order pharmacies from its provisions.

The appellate court also held that Serve You is subject to § 34-23-33(a) because the plain language of § 34-23-33(a) indicates that the Board's authority to revoke, suspend, place on probation or require remediation based on a violation of § 34-23-33(a) applies to all holders of pharmacy permits issued by the Board, not just individual pharmacists or pharmacies located in Alabama.

The court further held that § 34-23-33(a)(2), which allows the Board to impose sanctions and fines for “a violation of laws regulating the sale or dispensing of narcotics, exempt narcotics, or drugs bearing the label ‘caution, federal law prohibits dispensing without prescription,' or similar wording which causes the drugs to be classified as prescription legend drugs”, is not limited exclusively to violations of Alabama law. Finally, the court affirmed that the Board had the authority to determine that Serve You's violation of Colorado law was a violation of §§ 34-23-33(a)(2) and 20-2-54(a)(4).