Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court held that because the Medical Review Panel Act, Ky. Rev. Stat. 216C delays access to the courts of the Commonwealth for the adjudication of common-law claims, chapter 216C violates Section 14 of the Kentucky Constitution. This case presented a legal challenge to chapter 216C, which establishes a mandatory process to delay certain medical-malpractice claimants’ ability to access immediately the Commonwealth courts by creating medical-review panels and requiring a panel’s opinion about the merits of the claimant’s proposed complaint against health-care providers before the claimant may file suit. The trial court declared the Act unconstitutional on several grounds. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that chapter 216C violates section 14 of the Kentucky Constitution, which acts as a restraint on the power of all departments of state government infringing on the right of the people to seek immediate recess for common-law personal-injury claims. View "Commonwealth, Cabinet for Health & Family Services, ex rel. Meier v. Claycomb" on Justia Law

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At issue was the implications of the statutory language found in Ky. Rev. Stat. 186A.220 to the sale of a vehicle that was involved in an accident that killed both Jonathan Elmore and Craig Armstrong. Charles Armstrong sued Martin Cadillac, Inc.; The Travelers Indemnity Company, Martin’s insurer; Elmore’s estate, and other parties for the wrongful death of his son, Craig. Elmore was driving the vehicle, and Craig was a passenger when the vehicle was involved in the accident. This litigation centered around who owned, operated, or was financially responsible for the vehicle Elmore was driving. The circuit court found that Elmore was the owner of the vehicle, and therefore, that Martin and Travelers were not financially liable for the loss. The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s order granting summary judgment on all claims against Martin and Travelers, holding that, pursuant to section 186A. 220, Martin was not the “owner” of the vehicle, and therefore, Martin and Travelers were not responsible for coverage of the vehicle. View "Travelers Indemnity Co. v. Armstrong" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the trial court’s denial of Defendants’ motion for summary judgment based on their claims of qualified immunity, holding that Defendants, officials in the Breathitt County school system, were entitled to qualified official immunity on the claims brought by Jane Doe and her mother based on sexual abuse Doe experienced as a middle-school student. Doe alleged that Defendants breached their ministerial duties to properly supervise students and to report abuse and acted in bad faith in handling misconduct claims involving a former teacher. The court of appeals concluded that qualified immunity applied because Defendants’ acts - or inactions - were discretionary, were within the scope of their authority, and were undertaken in good faith. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Defendants’ duty to supervise was a discretionary act, and the duty to report can have both discretionary and ministerial elements, depending on the facts; (2) Defendants’ response to a texting incident did not constitute a violation of a ministerial duty that destroyed qualified official immunity; and (3) Doe failed to show Defendants acted in bad faith so as to deprive them of qualified official immunity View "Ritchie v. Turner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants, jail personnel, on this wrongful death suit alleging that an inmate died of a hydrocodone overdose while in jail due to the negligence of the jail personnel. Specifically, the Court held (1) even if a jury could reasonably determine that Defendants’ ministerial duties were violated, Plaintiffs could not prove causation; and (2) because there was no guide issue of material fact concerning causation, summary judgment for Defendants was proper. View "Peterson v. Foley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the opinion of the court of appeals upholding the circuit court’s dismissal of this action alleging that a child’s developmental delays were caused by a doctor’s negligence in the mother’s prenatal care and the child’s delivery. The Court held (1) the trial court erred in permitting Plaintiffs’ attorney to withdraw; (2) the mother did not engage in the unauthorized practice of law, and the trial court erred in striking the pleadings; (3) summary judgment was improper; and (4) “next friend” cannot proceed pro se on behalf of a real party in interest. View "Azmat v. Bauer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the court of appeals granting in part the Presbyterian Church’s petition for a writ to prohibit the trial court from lifting its stay of discovery in this defamation case, holding that the Church failed to establish it was entitled to the writ as to certain limited discovery. Reverend Eric Hoey filed a complaint alleging that the Church had defamed him. After Hoey served the Church discovery requests the Church argued that Hoey should not be entitled to discovery until the trial court ruled on the Church’s ecclesiastical-abstention and ministerial-exception defenses. The trial court disagreed and ordered the Church to respond to Hoey’s discovery requests. The Church petitioned the court of appeals for a writ, arguing that the trial court had abrogated its immunity by forcing it to participate in discovery without first making a threshold immunity determination. The court of appeals granted the writ to the extent the trial court should limit discovery to that which was necessary to determine whether the church was entitled to ecclesiastical immunity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Church satisfied the “certain special cases” writ criteria as to broad-reaching discovery but failed to meet this standard as to limited discovery the court may deem necessary to determine whether the Church was immune from suit. View "Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) v. Honorable Brian Edwards" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals reversing the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendants in this case alleging that Defendants breached their duties under the Farm Animals Activity Act by failing to make a reasonable inquiry into Plaintiff’s ability to manage a horse named Flash before letting her ride the horse, holding that Defendants were not liable under the statute. When Plaintiff visited a stable owned by Defendants to test-ride horses for sale she was injured when she was thrown by Flash. Plaintiff sought compensation for her injuries. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The Court of Appeals revered, finding that Defendants had a duty to make a reasonable and prudent inquiry into Plaintiff’s ability to manage flash before letting her ride the horse and that a genuine issue of fact existed regarding Plaintiffs allegation that defendants caused Plaintiff’s injuries. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Defendants reasonably determined that Flash was suitable for Plaintiff to ride based upon Plaintiff's representations; and (2) no genuine issue of material fact existed as to Defendants’ liability under the statute. View "Daugherty v. Tabor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals reversing the circuit court’s grant of a directed verdict in favor of Norfolk Southern Railway Company on Appellant’s complaint alleging negligence, holding that the circuit court correctly ruled that the common-law Firefighter’s Rule barred Appellant’s claim. Appellant, a patrol officer with the Danville Police Department, fell down an embankment and was injured while pursuing a suspect on foot. Appellant filed suit against Norfolk Southern, asserting that the embankment was a dangerous condition on the company’s premises and that the company was liable to her for the fall. The circuit court granted Norfolk Southern’s motion for a directed verdict, determining that Appellant’s claim was barred by the Firefighter’s Rule. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the case did not satisfy the three factors under the rule. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the circuit court’s directed verdict, holding that Appellant met the three prongs of the Firefighter’s Rule and may therefore not recover from Norfolk Southern. View "Norfolk Southern Railway Co. v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals concluding that the Kentucky Coal Employers Self-Insurers Guaranty Fund was fully responsible for McCoy Elkhorn Coal Corporation’s workers’ compensation liabilities, including a thirty percent enhancement arising from the employer’s safety violations. Farley Sargent II was fatally injured while working in a mine. The decedent’s statutory beneficiaries settled their workers’ compensation claims with his employer, McCoy Elkhorn, leaving a bifurcated issue regarding enhanced benefits. The administrative law judge concluded that the decedent’s survivors and estate were entitled to the thirty percent increase of workers’ compensation payments that would otherwise be if the accident was caused by the employer’s failure to comply with statutes or regulations regarding workplace safety. See Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.165(1). At issue before the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court was whether the Guaranty Fund, which assumed the obligations of McCoy Elkhorn, its insolvent member, could be held responsible for the thirty percent enhancement. The Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeals correctly concluded that the Guaranty Fund was fully responsible for McCoy Elkhorn’s workers’ compensation liabilities. View "McCoy Elkhorn Coal Corp. v. Sargent" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Kentucky Parole Board’s revocation hearing in this case was an adjudicative function, a discretionary act for which the Parole Board enjoyed absolute immunity from liability for its decisions whether to grant, deny, or revoke parole. Phyllis Roach was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment with a three-year conditional discharge period after she pled guilty to sodomy in the first degree. After she was released, Roach was charged with violating the terms of her postincarceration supervision. At a parole revocation hearing, the Parole Board sentenced Roach to serve fourteen months, the remainder of her conditional discharge period. Roach filed a complaint with the Board of Claims seeking damages for her “wrongful incarceration.” The Board of Claims rejected her claims. The circuit court reversed, finding that the Parole Board was grossly negligent in applying an unconstitutional sentence. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Board’s adjudication of Roach’s rights as to whether she violated her postincarceration release requirements was a quasi-adjudicative function and therefore a discretionary act for which the Board enjoyed absolute immunity. View "Roach v. Kentucky Parole Board" on Justia Law