St. Joseph Hy-Vee loses wrongful death lawsuit

Hy-Vee store

(St. Joseph News Press) – Eleven of the 12 jurors found for the plaintiff Thursday against Hy-Vee in a wrongful death lawsuit that centered on prescription drugs.

The jury awarded $2 million in damages, but Hy-Vee may not have to pay the entire amount.

A husband and his two children sued Hy-Vee, claiming the delivery of a wrong prescription resulted in the wife’s death.

Carl Oyler, the husband of Joyce Oyler, and their two children filed the civil lawsuit alleging Hy-Vee delivered the wrong prescription back in 2013.

The 11 jurors, after listening to four days of testimony, took one hour and 32 minutes to decide in favor of the Oyler family and award $1.4 million in past non-economic damages and $600,000 in future non-economic damages.

The family alleges there was a mix-up in the medications, with the diuretic Metolazone mistakenly recorded as Methotrexate, which is a cancer drug. The second drug, if taken inappropriately, can cause fatal complications.

However, there is a Missouri statute that presents a problem in the case. According to Missouri law, non-economic damages in death cases are limited to $350,000.

Buchanan County Circuit Judge Weldon Judah ruled the cap applies. Since Heartland Health (now Mosaic Life Care) paid a settlement of $225,000, Hy-Vee would only pay the difference of $125,000.

While neither side can talk about the Heartland settlement, the judge has said the confidentiality isn’t binding on the court and included the settlement in his written and signed docket entry.

The lawsuit also alleged Joyce Oyler suffered and endured, prior to her death, a significant level of physical and mental pain while her vital organs shut down. The judge denied the family the right to have the jury consider aggravating circumstances, which could have added an additional dollar award to the family.

The family’s attorneys filed pages of argument before the trial citing their arguments for why the statutory cap in death cases should be ruled unconstitutional as well as arguments for aggravating circumstances. And it appears there will be an appeal because the Missouri Supreme Court has already ruled the statutory cap of $350,000 on damages isn’t constitutional for non-death cases.