Amiker v. Drugs For Less, Inc., No. 97-CA-01493-SCT

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Citation796 So.2d 942
Docket Number No. 97-CA-01493-SCT, No. 97-CA-01535-SCT.
PartiesJoseph AMIKER and Bobbie Amiker v. DRUGS FOR LESS, INC., and Stan Mixon.
Decision Date17 August 2000

796 So.2d 942

Joseph AMIKER and Bobbie Amiker
v.
DRUGS FOR LESS, INC., and Stan Mixon

Nos. 97-CA-01493-SCT, 97-CA-01535-SCT.

Supreme Court of Mississippi.

August 17, 2000.

Rehearing Denied October 11, 2001.


796 So.2d 943
Barry W. Gilmer, Jackson, Attorney for Appellants

Walter T. Johnson, Jackson, Attorney for Appellee.

EN BANC.

BANKS, Presiding Justice, for the Court:

¶ 1. This case arises from a claim of misfilled prescriptions by a pharmacist and his pharmacy employer. These appeals are from an order by a successor judge which reversed in part the order of the original judge granting a new trial and ordering sanctions for discovery abuse. Because we find that the successor judge was in no better position to decide the issues in this case than the original judge, we reverse and remand.

I.

¶ 2. Joseph and Bobbie Amiker claim that Stan Mixon, while employed as a pharmacist with Drugs For Less, Inc. in Jackson, Mississippi, misfilled Joseph Amiker's prescriptions. Between October 3, 1992, and April 22, 1993, anti-depressants were allegedly erroneously substituted for the prescribed hypertension and heart medications. The Amikers claim that as a direct result Joseph's blood pressure elevated, and he suffered a stroke which rendered him permanently disabled. In April 1994 the Amikers filed their complaint in the Circuit court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County seeking recovery of damages from Mixon and Drugs For Less for their alleged negligence. Both Mixon and Drugs For Less were simultaneously represented by the same attorneys throughout all aspects of this litigation. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of both Mixon and Drugs For Less.

¶ 3. The present assignments of error do not concern the issue of whether Mixon or Drugs For Less did, in fact, negligently misfill Joseph Amiker's prescriptions. Rather, this case on appeal concerns apparent discovery violations committed by

796 So.2d 944
Mixon and Drugs For Less. The Amikers allege numerous violations which unfairly impeded their efforts to prove negligence. Two of the alleged violations are of primary concern. The Amikers allege that Drugs For Less deliberately withheld information concerning the limits of its liability insurance coverage, perpetuating the Amikers' belief that the policy's coverage was $1 million when, in fact, it was in excess of $30 million. This revelation only came about through an in-camera examination by the trial judge, Circuit Judge William F. Coleman, of Drugs For Less's files. Second, and more importantly, not until the fourth day of trial did Drugs For Less produce evidence of prior claims of negligence in filling prescriptions even though Drug For Less had been repeatedly ordered to do so by the court. After the jury returned its verdict and final judgment was entered, the Amikers filed their Motion for a Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict and Motion for a New Trial and renewed an earlier Motion for Sanctions, all of which were based on these alleged discovery violations. The trial court entered an Opinion and Order on these motions which we quote in part
[D]iscovery violations by the defense occurred from the initial beginning of the discovery and continued through the actual trial, despite repeated orders from the court to furnish specific discovery matters.... In this case, the defense attorneys were aware of the court's rulings, but failed to respond.
There is no question that Drugs for Less disobeyed this court's order to produce discovery. By way of explanation for their failure when brought into court by court order, the defendant's employees began a round robin finger-pointing scenario contending the insurance claims service were [sic] expected to produce the discovery. The employees of the claims service in turn pointed back to the defendants' employees. Even though this establishes no valid excuse for discovery violation, the close relationship of defendant Drugs for Less with the claims service and the insurance agent completely eliminates this from consideration. The testimony of the employees reveals an attitude of "Drugs for Less is in the business of producing sales and not producing discovery." The failure to furnish timely discovery clearly deprive[d] plaintiffs of the opportunity to evaluate and develop evidences not produced until well into the trial and only after orders from the court requiring individual employees of the defendant to be present in court to furnish this information. This failure on the part of Drugs for Less requires that the Motion for New Trial be granted.
Plaintiffs also moved for sanctions against defendant Drugs for Less for these discovery violations. Clearly, plaintiffs are entitled to sanctions. The issue is the extent of the sanctions.
... [T]he defendant Drugs for Less was well aware of this Court's order to produce records of prescription misfilling claims and failed to do so. In addition, Drugs for Less deliberately refused to furnish applicable insurance policies after being ordered to do so. Although having no bearing on the liability issue of this case, this discovery violation reveals a total disregard for the discovery rules and this court's authority. The failure to furnish the policies is especially egregious by the fact that the defendants were aware that the plaintiffs' attorneys had received a copy of the primary coverage policy, and relying on that information had made settlement offers for the policy limits. It is quite clear that at all times the defendants knew that not one, but several policies were in existence that placed
796 So.2d 945
coverage well above the primary coverage. The first time plaintiffs' attorneys were aware of this information was when advised by this court in open court at a point well into the trial. The court became aware of this fact while making an in camera inspection during the trial of the defense attorneys' file on an unrelated discovery matter.

The willful and deliberate violation has prejudiced plaintiffs by delay and expense. In addition, the defendant has caused significant problems with court administration-waste of the court's time weeks trial time on the court's docket and disregard for this court's authority.

These discovery violations must fall at the feet of Drugs for Less. The actions of the individual defendant, Stan Mixon, although participating to a small degree in the violations, does not rise to the necessary height of willfulness.
Therefore, judgment of liability will be entered in favor of the plaintiffs against Drugs for Less only.

Thus, the trial court (1) set aside the judgment based on the jury verdict, (2) granted a judgment of liability against Drugs for Less, (3) granted the Amikers a new trial against Mixon as to liability and damages and against Drugs for Less as to damages only, and (4) awarded the Amikers reasonable and necessary attorney's fees of $51,542.94 against Drugs For Less.

¶ 4. Mixon and Drugs For Less then filed a Motion to Reconsider this Order in December 1996. Judge Coleman denied this motion. They subsequently petitioned this Court for Permission to Perfect an Appeal from the Order granting the Amikers a new trial and imposing sanctions upon Drug For Less. These petitions were denied on May 16, 1997. While the Petitions for Permission to Appeal were pending, Judge Coleman retired. Circuit Judge W. Swan Yerger was appointed to fill the vacancy created by Judge Coleman's retirement and was assigned this case.

¶ 5. On July 7, 1997, Mixon filed his second Motion to Reconsider. Drugs For Less filed its second Motion to Reconsider on July 16, 1997. The hearing on these motions was held on August 20, 1997. At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Yerger rendered his Opinion and Order which vacated Judge Coleman's 1996 Orders. Judge Yerger's Order granted the Amikers a new trial as to Drugs For Less but did not impose a judgment of liability as Judge Coleman had done. Furthermore, the Final Judgment in favor of Stan Mixon was reinstated and certified as final judgment pursuant to M.R.C.P. 54(b). The trial court also ordered Drugs For Less to pay the Amikers' reasonable attorney's fees and expenses in the sum of $51,542.94 in accordance with Judge Coleman's earlier order imposing the same as an additional sanction.

¶ 6. Subsequently, the Amikers filed their Notice of Appeal from the Final Judgment entered in favor of Stan Mixon. In addition, the Amikers filed their Petition for Permission to Appeal with this Court which was granted on December 10, 1998. On February 17, 1999, the Amikers' interlocutory appeal from the Opinion and Order entered against Drugs For Less was consolidated with their appeal from the Final Judgment entered in favor of Stan Mixon.

II.

¶ 7. The pertinent issues here are questions of law. Our standard of review is de novo in passing on questions of law. In re Bodman, 674 So.2d 1245, 1247 (Miss. 1996); Rea v. Breakers Ass'n, Inc., 674 So.2d 496, 499 (Miss.1996); Harrison County v. City of Gulfport, 557 So.2d 780,

796 So.2d 946
784 (Miss.1990); Cole v. National Life Ins. Co., 549 So.2d 1301, 1303 (Miss.1989)

III.

¶ 8. The Amikers' first assignment of error, in essence, claims that a successor judge does not possess the power to vacate an initial judge's order granting a new trial and issuing sanctions for discovery violations which came to light in the trial. We first examine the question whether vacating the order granting a new trial as to Stan Mixon was proper.

¶ 9. Rule 63(b) of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure states:

If for any reason the judge before whom an action has been tried is unable to perform the duties to be performed by the court after a verdict is returned ... then any other judge regularly sitting in or assigned under law to the court in which the action was tried may perform those duties....

¶ 10. Our holdings in Mauck v. Columbus Hotel Co., 741 So.2d 259 (Miss.1999) and Love...

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238 practice notes
  • Ashley Healthcare Plan v. Dillard (In re Guardianship of O.D.), No. 2014–CA–00322–SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • August 6, 2015
    ...When the imposition of attorney's fees raises a question of law, the standard of review is de novo. See Amiker v. Drugs For Less, Inc., 796 So.2d 942, 945–46 (Miss.2001).¶ 16. It is undisputed that, in their Motion for Remand, the Dillards claimed they were entitled to attorney's fees under......
  • GILLETT v. State Of Miss., NO. 2008-DP-00181-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • July 1, 2010
    ...1997), disagreed with on other grounds by Dilworth v. State, 909 So. 2d 731 (Miss. 2005) and quoting Amiker v. Drugs For Less, Inc., 796 So. 2d 942, 947 (Miss. 2000)). ¶101. In analyzing the sufficiency of the evidence, this Court asks whether, "after viewing the evidence in the light most ......
  • Byrom v. State, No. 2001-DP-00529-SCT.
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • October 16, 2003
    ...as of August 7, 2003, should be allowed to stand, Presiding Justice McRae relies heavily upon the case of Amiker v. Drugs for Less, Inc., 796 So.2d 942, 948 (Miss.2001), and its holding "that a successor judge does not possess the power to vacate an initial judge's order granting a new tria......
  • Gillett v. State , No. 2008–DP–00181–SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • March 31, 2011
    ...(Miss.1997), disagreed with on other grounds by Dilworth v. State, 909 So.2d 731 (Miss.2005) and quoting Amiker v. Drugs For Less, Inc., 796 So.2d 942, 947 (Miss.2000)). ¶ 101. In analyzing the sufficiency of the evidence, this Court asks whether, “after viewing the evidence in the light mo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
238 cases
  • Ashley Healthcare Plan v. Dillard (In re Guardianship of O.D.), No. 2014–CA–00322–SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • August 6, 2015
    ...When the imposition of attorney's fees raises a question of law, the standard of review is de novo. See Amiker v. Drugs For Less, Inc., 796 So.2d 942, 945–46 (Miss.2001).¶ 16. It is undisputed that, in their Motion for Remand, the Dillards claimed they were entitled to attorney's fees under......
  • GILLETT v. State Of Miss., NO. 2008-DP-00181-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • July 1, 2010
    ...1997), disagreed with on other grounds by Dilworth v. State, 909 So. 2d 731 (Miss. 2005) and quoting Amiker v. Drugs For Less, Inc., 796 So. 2d 942, 947 (Miss. 2000)). ¶101. In analyzing the sufficiency of the evidence, this Court asks whether, "after viewing the evidence in the light most ......
  • Byrom v. State, No. 2001-DP-00529-SCT.
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • October 16, 2003
    ...as of August 7, 2003, should be allowed to stand, Presiding Justice McRae relies heavily upon the case of Amiker v. Drugs for Less, Inc., 796 So.2d 942, 948 (Miss.2001), and its holding "that a successor judge does not possess the power to vacate an initial judge's order granting a new tria......
  • Gillett v. State , No. 2008–DP–00181–SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • March 31, 2011
    ...(Miss.1997), disagreed with on other grounds by Dilworth v. State, 909 So.2d 731 (Miss.2005) and quoting Amiker v. Drugs For Less, Inc., 796 So.2d 942, 947 (Miss.2000)). ¶ 101. In analyzing the sufficiency of the evidence, this Court asks whether, “after viewing the evidence in the light mo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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