ST. LOUIS (CN) - The parents of a woman who was found dead in August Busch IV's mansion can join a wrongful death lawsuit against the beer baron, a state appeals court ruled.
Adrienne Martin was found dead in Busch's mansion on Dec. 19, 2010. A coroner ruled her death an accident from an overdose of oxycodone. The autopsy also revealed a high level of cocaine in Martin's blood.
Martin's ex-husband, Dr. Kevin Martin, sued Busch on behalf of the Martins' 9-year-old son.
This week a three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals Eastern District reversed a lower court's rejection of the effort of Adrienne Martin's parents - Christine Trampler of Ozark, Mo. and George Eby of Springfield, Mo. - to join the lawsuit.
"Given that appellants' motions to intervene were filed within 21 days of the filing
of the original petition and before the settlement had been approved by the circuit court, and that they had an absolute right to intervene, the circuit court erroneously applied the law in denying their motions," Judge Kenneth M. Romines wrote. "The case should be remanded with an order that the circuit court allow Larry Eby and Christine Trampler to intervene."
The decision will give Trampler and Eby more control over legal strategy and whether to accept a $1.5 million settlement offer. It also allows them to review more discovery in their daughter's death and gives them the ability to subpoena witnesses.
Busch and Kevin Martin agreed on a $1.5 million settlement for Martin's son. Cape Girardeau Circuit Judge William Syler, who blocked Trampler and Eby from joining the lawsuit, postponed approving the settlement until Trampler's and Eby's appeal was decided.
The addition of Martin's parents into the fray is expected to bring a power struggle over control of litigation. The parents can dispute whether the $1.5 million settlement is fair and could seek a percentage of it.
Lawyers for the parents told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch they want to move the case back to St. Louis County, where it originally was filed. It was transferred to Cape Girardeau, where Kevin Martin lives.
Busch, 47, was CEO of Anheuser-Busch from 2006 to 2008, until InBev bought it. Busch's attorney, Maurice Graham, told the Post-Dispatch that he will "respectfully ask the Missouri Supreme Court for a review."
Judges Kathianne Knaup Crane and Lawrence E. Mooney joined Romines on the panel.