Judge rejects blaming gambling debts on drug prescription

A B.C. judge has thrown out the case of a man whose estate claims he racked up $9 million US in gambling debts after being prescribed a drug that allegedly causes compulsive behaviour.

The estate of Sameh Magid alleged that he sustained the losses before his death while using the drug Abilify, an antipsychotic drug used to treat a number of mental disorders. The lawsuit claimed that Magid was prescribed and consumed the drug from December 2010 until his death in 2018, and that he suffered harmful effects, including compulsive gambling as well as compulsive shopping and hypersexuality.

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It was alleged that while using Abilify, Magid’s gambling losses included $583,750 US at Caesars Palace Casino in Las Vegas in May 2012, and $8.385 million US at Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas in 2014 and 2015.

The estate claimed that the defendants, including the drug company Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, failed to provide adequate warnings about the risks of Abilify, despite having provided such warnings to European customers in 2012.

The defendants denied any liability and applied in B.C. Supreme Court for an order staying the proceedings on the grounds that B.C. was not the appropriate forum to determine the dispute.

They argued that Magid was not a resident of Vancouver at the material times, was never prescribed Abilify in B.C., and never purchased the drug in this province. Instead, they claimed that Magid lived in California and was prescribed and purchased the drug there.

The defendants relied upon various affidavits filed in the probate proceedings for Magid, who died in Los Angeles in February 2018, for proof that he was a resident of California and no longer owned any real estate in B.C. at the time of his death.

In his ruling, Justice Christopher Giaschi noted that medical records indicated that the last entry for a prescription in B.C. was made in December 2010, and that later prescriptions were obtained from doctors in California and filled in that state.

The judge said that he was satisfied that the primary residence of Magid from 2009 or 2010 and continuing until his death was California.

“In my view, the evidence before me is overwhelming that Sameh was never prescribed Abilify in British Columbia and never filled a prescription for Abilify in British Columbia.”

Regarding the issue of where the alleged loss or ­damage occurred, the judge noted that the gambling losses were incurred in Las Vegas, not B.C., and there was no clear evidence that the estate in B.C. as opposed to the estate in ­California was impacted by the losses.

“It is not in the interests of the fair and efficient ­working of the legal system that this matter be heard in British Columbia. It will be much more efficient if the courts in ­California determine the issues.”

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