Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court

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Plaintiff filed a personal injury action against a rehabilitation hospital where her husband was staying after Plaintiff became entangled in some wires strung along the side of her husband's bed and fell, fracturing her kneecap. The trial court granted summary judgment to the hospital, concluding that the hospital owed no duty of care to Plaintiff because the wires were an open and obvious condition. Before the court of appeals affirmed, the Supreme Court rendered its decision in Kentucky River Medical Center v. McIntosh, which modified Kentucky premises-liability law. The Supreme Court ultimately reversed the court of appeals on a second appeal, holding (1) the foreseeability and duty analysis employed by the court of appeals in reaching its decision was incompatible with modern tort law trends; and (2) the analysis is now such that a court no longer makes a no-duty determination but, rather, makes a no-breach determination, which places the reasonable-foreseeability analysis in the hands of the jury. Remanded. View "Shelton v. Ky. Easter Seals Soc'y, Inc." on Justia Law

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The underlying class action here was brought against Southern Financial Life Insurance Company, which sold credit life and disability insurance through lending institutions, by purchasers of Southern Financial's credit life and disability policies. During the discovery phase, the trial court entered an order compelling Southern Financial to produce certain loan information and documents regarding the putative class members and the insurance sold to them. Southern Financial did not comply with the order, arguing that the loan information was not in its "possession, custody or control" within the meaning of Ky. R. Civ. P. 34.01, but rather, the information was in the possession of the individual lenders. After applying principles of general agency law, the trial court overruled the objection. Southern Financial subsequently sought a writ of prohibition to prevent the trial court's enforcement of the discovery order. The court of appeals declined to issue a writ. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Southern Financial was legally in control of the information it was compelled to disclose in the trial court's order, and therefore, the trial court committed no error. View "S. Fin. Life Ins. Co. v. Pike Circuit Court" on Justia Law

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Following the death of their father in an accident in which the van he was driving struck a retaining wall, Appellees retained a law firm and attorneys (collectively, Appellants) to pursue a wrongful death action against the company charged with maintaining the van. The circuit court dismissed the suit after the defendant successfully excluded two of the plaintiffs' expert witnesses. Two years later, Appellees filed a professional negligence action against Appellants. The trial court granted Appellants' motion for summary judgment, finding that Appellees were not in privity with Appellants and thus lacked standing to sue for professional negligence. The court of appeals reversed, concluding (1) there was a material factual issue in dispute as to whether Appellees were represented by Appellants or were led to believe they were being represented by them, and (2) even if there was no privity, the children were owed professional duties because they were the intended beneficiaries of the underlying wrongful death action. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there were issues of material fact regarding the attorney-client relationship; and (2) the attorneys owed duties to the children, who were real parties in interest to the wrongful death action. View "Pete v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Appellant was found guilty of first-degree wanton endangerment, fleeing or evading the police, first-degree illegal possession of a controlled substance, and second-degree criminal mischief. The trial court sentenced Appellant as a persistent felony offender (PFO) to twenty years' incarceration. The Supreme Court affirmed Appellant's conviction and sentence, holding (1) Ky. R. Crim. P. 9.40, which prescribes the number of peremptory challenges in a criminal case, is valid, and the Court has the authority to promulgate that rule and all other rules of practice and procedure in the Commonwealth; and (2) the Commonwealth improperly mischaracterized Appellant's PFO status during closing arguments of the PFO guilt phase trial, but the error was not palpable. View "Glenn v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Appellee sued Dick's Sporting Goods after she slipped and fell to the floor at one of Dick's stores, claiming the store was negligent in maintaining its premises. Dick's denied that it owed any duty to Appellee because the condition of the floor was open and obvious. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Dick's. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court erred by granting summary judgment, as Dick's had an affirmative duty to maintain its store premises in a reasonably safe condition and whether Dick's breached that duty was a question for the jury to decide. Remanded. View "Dick's Sporting Goods, Inc. v. Webb" on Justia Law

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Appellee, a licensed attorney with experience in the practice of criminal law, was indicted on five counts of failure to file Kentucky tax returns for several years. Prior to trial, Appellee appeared on his own behalf, but one day before jury trial was to begin, Appellee requested a continuance to retain private counsel. The trial judge overruled the motion without holding a formal Faretta hearing. After a jury trial, Appellee was convicted on five counts of failing to file a state tax return. The court of appeals reversed the conviction. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and reinstated the circuit court's judgment, holding that criminal defendants who are experienced criminal trial attorneys are not entitled to a Faretta hearing or inquiry prior to representing themselves. View "Commonwealth v. Ayers" on Justia Law

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In Haydon Bridge I, the Supreme Court held that provisions of the 2000-2002 and 2002-2004 budget bills, which suspended annual General Fund appropriations to the Benefit Reserve Fund (BRF) were constitutional but that other provisions of the bills ordering funds transferred from the BRF to the General Fund were unconstitutional. On remand, the trial court granted permanent prospective relief prohibiting the future transfer of funds from the BRF to the General Fund or other state agencies and ordered retroactive injunctive relief requiring the Governor and State Budget Director (collectively, "the Governor") to return monies that had been transferred from the BRF to the General Fund from 2000 to 2010. The court's order addressed, among other things, transfers from the part of the BRF known as the Coal Workers' Pneumoconiosis Fund. The Governor appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the retroactive injunctive relief ordered by the trial court violated sovereign immunity and the separation of powers; (2) there was no basis for the trial court's award of attorneys' fees; and (3) because Plaintiffs had no standing with regard to the Pneumoconiosis Fund, the trial court should not have enjoined transfers from that Fund based on a request from Plaintiffs. View "Beshear v. Haydon Bridge Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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This case involved a dispute between a condominium association (the Council) and one of its co-owners (Ballard) regarding the need to replace and who should bear the cost of replacement of a two-story wall of windows in Ballard's condominium. Ballard filed suit against the Council seeking damages for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty, among other claims. The Council, meanwhile, replaced the wall of windows and filed a lien statement and lis pendens to serve as notice that it was asserting a lien against Ballard's condominium. The Council counterclaimed. Ballard amended her complaint to assert, inter alia, a slander of title claim. After a jury trial, the trial court awarded judgment to Ballard and ordered the Council to release its lis pendens notice and statement of lien from Ballard's condominium. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Ballard's slander of title claim was properly submitted to the jury; and (2) the court of appeals correctly determined that the Council did not have a fiduciary duty to Ballard, and therefore, the fiduciary claim should have been dismissed rather than a new trial ordered. Remanded. View "Ballard v. 1400 Willow Council of Co-Owners, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellant entered a conditional guilty plea to second-degree possession of a controlled substance and carrying a concealed deadly weapon. Appellant appealed, arguing that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence seized upon his arrest because the arresting officer lacked probable cause to believe that Appellant had committed a misdemeanor offense by carrying a concealed deadly weapon. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) an objectively reasonable police officer would have believed there was probable cause to arrest Appellant for carrying a concealed weapon; and (2) therefore, the search and ultimate seizure of the evidence leading to Appellant's conviction were valid, and the circuit court thus did not err in denying Appellant's motion to suppress. View "Vega v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of several criminal offenses, including first-degree robbery and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant did not suffer prejudice when the trial court's voir dire procedure was not consistent with the applicable statutes and rules, as the procedure employed in this case did not constitute a substantial deviation from the proper method; (2) the trial court's use of Appellant's single prior felony conviction to establish the offense of possession of a handgun by a convicted felon and to enhance Appellant's first-degree robbery sentences under the persistent felony offender statute did not constitute double enhancement; and (3) the trial judge properly concluded that a mistrial was not warranted after a juror had contact with a victim-witness. View "Oro-Jimenez v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law