L&E Obtains Success in Appellate Matter on Behalf of Family

The Missouri Court of Appeals recently decided that the family of a woman who died because she took the wrong medication will get a new trial against the pharmacy on the issue of damages for aggravating circumstances.  The case is Oyler v. Hy-Vee, Inc., WD79742.  Langdon & Emison Partner Michael W. Manners helped lead the appellate team in the matter.

As reported by Missouri Lawyers Weekly, the Western District cited the pharmacist’s failure to review prescriptions, the receipt of the phone-in order by a pharmacy technician without direct supervision, the failure to counsel the patient upon receiving a high-alert medication and the failure to improve procedures as a result of the death.

“The jury would be entitled to conclude that Hy-Vee’s claim that different practices would not have prevented Ms. Oyler’s death, and its failure to institute the remedial measures suggested by the evidence, exhibited its indifference to, and disregard for, the serious risk of injury to patients like Ms. Oyler,” Judge Alok Ahuja wrote.

According to the news article, a pharmacy technician made several errors taking the phone-in prescription, ordering methotrexate instead of metolazone.  Methotrexate is a chemotherapy drug also used to treat auto-immune disorders. It is classified as a high-alert medication, and when taken daily for more than a week, it can have irreversible, fatal side effects with symptoms manifesting only after the damage becomes untreatable.

Oyler took the medication daily as directed and died Oct. 30, 2013. Her husband and two adult sons filed a wrongful death suit in Buchanan County against Hy-Vee and the medical center. The medical center was dismissed after settlement.  The jury returned a $2 million verdict for the Oylers after Hy-Vee admitted negligence at trial. The trial court reduced the award to $125,000 under applicable damages caps. The court also granted the defendant’s motion for a directed verdict on the issue of aggravating circumstances damages.

The appellate court cited testimony that pharmacist review was particularly important because the store’s computer system lacked a “hard stop” warning used around the country to prevent medication errors. The court concentrated on evidence that the pharmacy allowed technicians, rather than pharmacists, to receive phone orders, and that technicians were allowed to do so without the direct supervision of pharmacists, according to the news report.

In November 2000, Mike Manners was appointed by Missouri Governor Roger Wilson to serve as a Circuit Court Judge with the 16th Judicial Circuit, Division 2 in Independence. Judge Manners received such prominent distinctions as the Theodore McMillian Judicial Excellence Award from the Missouri Bar, and “Best Circuit Judge in the State” by Missouri Lawyers Weekly. The Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association bestowed him with its Joseph E. Stevens, Jr. Aspire to Excellence Award for his service as a judge in 2012.  Prior to his appointment, Mike spent 24 years as a trial attorney with the firm that eventually became Welch, Martin, & Albano.

Mike has been a frequent lecturer at educational forums for trial judges and continuing legal education programs for attorneys. Having served as president of both the Eastern Jackson County Bar Association and Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys, Mike is committed to serving the legal profession and his clients.