The Arkansas Supreme Court this week unanimously upheld a $1.27 million jury decision against Wal-Mart in a case in which the company gave a pharmacy customer the wrong medication, which ultimately killed him. John Tucker went to his “local” Wal-Mart in DeQueen, Arkansas in 1997, and instead of walking out with Ziac, a high blood pressure medication, was given the wrong drug. What his doctor had prescribed, however, was Zaroxolyn, a diuretic. Tucker took the medication for nearly three months. The wrong medication led to a build up of fluid in Tucker’s body, and eventually to severe weight gain, which overtaxed his heart and led to congestive heart failure, according to the Arkansas Times Record. Medical evidence was submitted during the trial which indicated that the Wal-Mart pharmacist’s mistake contributed to the customer’s death. When the case went to court, a jury awarded the Tucker family $1.27 million — but rather than admit their mistake and let Tucker’s wife of 41 years, and daughter, receive the award — Wal-Mart appealed the case to the state Supreme Court, arguing that the verdict was the “result of passion or prejudice”. Wal-Mart also challenged the jury’s award of $125,000 to Tucker’s daughter. The Supreme Court found that Wal-Mart’s argument was without merit.
After the lawyers are done invoicing the Tucker family, how much money will the family ever see? Why did a blatant mistake by a Wal-Mart employee have to result in a 6 year legal battle for the family? The death of John Tucker was only the first injustice here. The second wrong was to the family of the deceased, who had to spent an enormous amount of time and money just to prove what Wal-Mart already says is true: “The customer is always right.” This case is not so remarkable for what happened to the customer — but rather what the response of Wal-Mart was in fighting the family in court.