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Drug testing lawsuits allowed

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WASHINGTON — A false positive result in a drug test is more than just a little mistake; it’s often the difference between walking free or going to prison. Now, New Yorkers can sue drug testing laboratories for damages caused by incorrect results.

A ruling Oct. 10 by New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, opens the door to civil liability for drug testing companies, which play an essential role in the criminal justice system but have been largely unaccountable for their test results.

State supreme courts in Pennsylvania and Kansas also have recognized civil liability for drug labs specifically in cases where a false positive drug test cost someone a job after it looked like the applicant flunked a drug test.

In the New York ruling, the court majority stressed that the consequences of a false positive drug test are “potentially life-altering.”

Eric Landon, a former funeral director, asked the court for the right to sue Kroll Laboratories, a Louisiana-based private drug testing lab that performed drug tests for the Orange County Probation Department, just north of New York City.

In the New York court, the dissenting judges worried about opening up the courts to suits against lab companies from any probationers or employees who want to dispute the results of their mandatory drug tests. This opens the door to lawsuits in areas “too numerous to contemplate,” Judge Eugene Pigott wrote.

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