Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Filed Under:
doj, drugs, rogue pharmacies, secondary liability

doj, ups

UPS Coughs Up $40 Million Because It Delivered Drugs From Rogue Pharmacies

from the uh,-secondary-liability? dept

Whenever we talk about things like "secondary liability" and why it doesn't make sense to blame a company for something their users do, we'll often use examples like pointing out that it's inappropriate to blame AT&T if someone makes a bomb threat over the phone, or to blame Ford for someone driving too fast. Another example in the "of course that's silly" list may have to removed however: the inappropriateness of blaming UPS or Fedex for what's in the packages they deliver. That one now has to be retired. Because the good old US government has made UPS forfeit $40 million to the government for shipping drugs from "illegal internet pharmacies." Details on what actually happened here are sparse, but the DOJ will be celebrating this one, despite almost none of the important details being shared.

UPS put out a statement that doesn't sound even remotely forced upon it by DOJ people holding guns.
"We believe we have an obligation and responsibility to help curb the sale and shipment of drugs sold through illegal Internet pharmacies," said Susan Rosenberg, a UPS spokeswoman.
Of course, what is an "illegal internet pharmacy"? There's a bit of an issue there because the DOJ thinks that an illegal internet pharmacy includes that Canadian pharmacy that is much cheaper, but which is making perfectly legitimate drugs and then shipping them -- gray market style -- into the US. That's a very different picture than the "illegal internet pharmacy" selling sugar pills or worse. But, here's the thing about all that: for all the talk of the risks and dangerous of illegal internet pharmacies there are amazingly few stories of any actual harm. And, in fact, various random tests of the drugs coming from "illegal internet pharmacies" suggest that, for the most part, they're safe (and frequently appear to actually be what they say on the box). So what is the DOJ protecting us from here? The scourge of more affordable legal drugs?

The bigger issue, however, is the question of secondary liability. I don't want UPS going through my packages to make sure they're not illegal drugs. Perhaps the government showed direct plans and strategies by UPS to attract illegal pharmacies, but from the outside, given the information that's been revealed, it looks like the real problem is why is the DOJ even bothering? If UPS and Fedex are going to have to start checking what's inside packages to avoid getting itself fined again, that's a really bad and dangerous precedent.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2013 @ 8:49pm

    Re: are touching upon the doctrine of "respondeat superior" at a site that is unable to cope with even the mention of "secondary liability", no matter how egregious the facts in each may be. Why am I left with the sinking feeling that TD would immediately come to the aid and side with a shipping company that regularly picks up and delivers packages from a company named "No prescription? No problem! Cheap Drugs-'R-Us for anyone needing a quick line of cocaine and other mind bending drugs"?

    At some point in time even a rock would come to realize something was amiss.

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