Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s claims. Plaintiff sued Defendant, which uses warehouses in Jefferson County to store its barrels of bourbon, seeking damages based on several state tort theories and injunctive relief. Plaintiff claimed that fugitive ethanol emissions that escape from the barrels as the bourbon ages promote the growth of the “whiskey fungus,” which causes a black film-like substance to proliferate on his property. The trial court determined that the federal Clean Air Act preempted Plaintiff’s claims. The court of appeals reversed, ruling that the Act did not preempt Plaintiff’s claims. The Supreme Court held (1) Plaintiff’s state tort claims for damages were not preempted by the Act; but (2) Plaintiff’s requested injunction was inappropriate. View "Brown-Forman Corp. v. Miller" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order rejecting the Board of Trustees of the Kentucky Schools Boards Insurance Trust’s (KSBIT) claim of governmental immunity and thus denying its motion for summary judgment. In this complaint filed by the Deputy Rehabilitator of the Kentucky School Boards Trust Workers’ Compensation Self-Insurance Fund and of the Kentucky School Boards Insurance Trust Property and Liability Self Insurance Fund against the KSBIT Board for, inter alia, negligence, the KSBIT Board asserted a defense of governmental immunity and moved for summary judgment. The circuit court determined that the KSBIT Board was not entitled to governmental immunity because its “parent” entity was not an agency of state government that enjoyed governmental immunity and because it did not perform a function that was integral to state government. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because the KSBIT Board is not the offspring of local public school boards, it does not have the governmental immunity accorded to those governmental bodies; and (2) the KSBIT Board does not serve a function integral to state government. View "Board of Trustees of Kentucky School Boards Insurance Trust v. Pope" on Justia Law

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This personal injury suit arose from a trip-and-fall at the Speedway SuperAmerica filling station in Manchester, Kentucky. The circuit court found for Plaintiffs and against the Speedway, the store’s owner, and the store’s manager (collectively, Defendants). The court of appeals reversed and remanded for entry of a defense judgment based on the common law’s open and obvious doctrine. Due to recent attempts to modernize the open and obvious doctrine and to harmonize it with tort law’s shift to a regime of comparative negligence, the Supreme Court remanded the case for reconsideration in light of recent precedent. On remand, the court of appeals concluded that Plaintiffs’ claims failed in their entirety. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that the court of appeals read recent precedent too narrowly. Given the long delays in this litigation, the court departed from its usual practice and addressed additional issues concerning the liability of the store manager, the comparative fault of the injured plaintiff, and the trial judge’s denial of a post-judgment motion to recuse. View "Grubb v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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The estate of Stephen Patton, an eighth-grader who committed suicide, filed suit against various teachers and administrators, claiming that Defendants should have known of the bullying Stephen was subjected to at school and taken steps to prevent it. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants, ruling (1) Defendants were protected by qualified immunity, and (2) Stephen’s suicide was a superseding intervening cause interrupting any potential liability of Defendants. The court of appeals upheld the summary judgment solely on the intervening cause issue and ruled that Defendants were not entitled to qualified official immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals’ opinion to uphold summary judgment but for different reasons, holding (1) while the Administrators were protected by qualified immunity, the Teachers were not immune from suit on the basis of qualified official immunity; (2) bullying and tormenting behavior, if shown to be the proximate cause of a suicide, may form the basis for a wrongful death claim by the decedent’s estate; but (3) under the facts of this case, the Estate failed to make a prima facie showing that the Teachers’ conduct of failing to prevent the bullying of Stephen was the “but-for” cause or the proximate cause of Stephen’s suicide. View "Patton v. Bickford" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Roniesha Adams, her son, and her son’s father, Barry Adams (Barry), were passengers in Milton Mitchell’s car when the car was rear ended. Mitchell and his three passengers asserted claims against State Farm, seeking personal injury protection and uninsured motorist benefits. Because they allegedly gave inconsistent statements to State Farm regarding “substantive issues,” State Farm advised Mitchell, Adams, and Barry that they were required to submit to questioning under oath. Adams and Barry refused to submit to questioning under oath, and State Farm refused to pay additional benefits. Adams and Barry filed suit, and State Farm filed a counterclaim seeking a declaratory judgment that it did not have to provide coverage because Adams and Barry failed to cooperate with its investigation. The circuit court granted summary judgment for State Farm. Adams appealed. The court of appeals reversed, ruling that State Farm was required to obtain a court order before it could require Adams to submit to questioning under oath. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court correctly found that Adams was required to submit to questioning under oath regarding issues as a condition precedent to coverage. View "State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. v. Adams" on Justia Law

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Personal-injury law firm Hughes & Coleman was entitled to quantum meruit compensation after being hired and then fired by Travis Underwood, who was injured in a car crash. Shortly after Underwood discharged Hughes & Coleman and hired another attorney, Underwood agreed to a final settlement of his claims. Hughes & Coleman asserted an attorney’s lien on the new counsel’s contingency attorney fee on the final settlement, claiming it was entitled to a quantum meruit share of the fee as compensation for its services rendered before being terminated. The trial court concluded that Hughes & Coleman was discharged without cause and apportioned seventy-five percent of the contingency fee to the firm. The court of appeals reversed, ruling that Underwood had valid cause for terminating Hughes & Coleman’s services. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) case precedent entitles a discharged lawyer to receive, on a quantum meruit basis, a portion of a contingency fee on a former client’s recovery so long as the termination was not for cause; and (2) because Hughes & Coleman’s firing was not for cause, the firm was entitled to quantum meruit compensation. View "Hughes & Coleman, PLLC v. Chambers" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Board in this workers’ compensation case. Appellant suffered a work-related injury in 2007. After she returned to work, Appellant suffered a second work-related injury in 2011 that resulted in Appellant being found permanently totally disabled. At issue before the Supreme Court was the proper disposition of Appellant’s claim for benefits following her first injury. The Board remanded the matter to the administrative law judge, determining that the ALJ erred in concluding that Appellant had not claimed entitlement to permanent total disability benefits following her first injury. The Board remanded this case to the ALJ with specific instructions to first determine Appellant’s entitlement to permanent total disability benefits and, if she was not entitled to such benefits, to determine her permanent partial disability benefits using a proper analysis under Fawbush v. Gwinn, 103 S.W. 3d 5 (Ky. 2005). The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Court of Appeals did not err in its judgment. View "Blaine v. Downtown Redevelopment Authority, Inc." on Justia Law

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Steven Baytos settled his workers’ compensation injury claim with Family Dollar Stores, his employer. The settlement amount included separate consideration in exchange for Baytos’s waiver of all future claims. Two years after Baytos died from his work-related injury, Mamie Baytos, his widow who was not a party to the settlement, filed a motion to reopen Baytos’s injury claim to assert her own claim for a workers’ compensation death benefit. The administrative law judge allowed Mamie to reopen Baytos’s claim and awarded her death benefits. The Workers’ Compensation Board reversed, concluding that claims for death benefits arising from a workers’ compensation injury are not derivative of the income benefits the injured employee recovers from the employer. The Court of Appeals reversed the Board. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Mamie has a separate and viable claim for death benefits under Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.750; and (2) it was improper for Mamie to assert her claim via reopening Baytos’s settled claim, although the court made an exception in today’s case. View "Family Dollar v. Baytos" on Justia Law

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An administrative law judge (ALJ) awarded Brandon Fleming partial disability benefits based on a finding that Fleming had a combined permanent impairment rating of seventeen percent. In 2010, Fleming moved to reopen his claim, alleging that his condition had worsened. A different ALJ found that Fleming had a combined permanent impairment rating of thirty-two percent. The Workers’ Compensation Board and court of appeals affirmed. LKLP CAC Inc. appealed, arguing that the ALJ’s opinion was not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ relied on a physician who stated that Fleming’s permanent impairment rating had not changed following the 2010 opinion and award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no abuse of discretion in the ALJ’s finding that Fleming had an increase in his permanent impairment rating, in his impairment, and in his disability. View "LKLP CAC Inc. v. Fleming" on Justia Law

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Michael Flick was convicted of the 2005 murder of Christina Wittich and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 2008, Wittich’s Estate filed this wrongful-death action against Flick. Flick filed a motion to dismiss the complaint as untimely filed. The trial court denied the motion. A jury awarded the Estate $2,900,000 in compensatory damage and $53,000,000 in punitive damages. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Estate’s wrongful-death claim was untimely filed; (2) the Estate’s wrongful-death claim was not saved by a tolling statute; (3) the legislature’s recent amendment to Ky. Rev. Stat. 413.140(1) did not save the Estate’s claim; and (4) this court’s holding was not prospective only in nature. View "Estate of Christina Witch v. Flick" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury