August 2013 – Topical Summary of Kentucky Court of Appeals Published Decisions with Digests and Links to Full Text (prepared by the AOC)

Federal Court House Lexington, Kentucky Photo by Michael Stevens

Federal Court House
Lexington, Kentucky
Photo by Michael Stevens

Click here for August 2013 monthly summaries.

Click here  for entire listing of archived COA Monthly Summaries of Published Decisions.

Here are some of the tort, insurance and civil decisions of interest dealing with:

  • nunc pro tunc order cannot retroactively give finality to a non-final order.
  • long arm statute and jurisdiction over negligence in work place action
  • sovereign immunity and the Finance and Administration Cabinet
  • negligent design claim against Toyota

II.  APPEALS

 Wright v. Swigart
2012-CA-001956 08/16/2013 2013 WL 4246662 DR Pending

Opinion and Order dismissing by Judge Maze; Judge Nickell concurred; Judge Thompson dissented and filed a separate opinion. This matter arose from a motion to reconsider a prior order dismissing an appeal as taken from an interlocutory judgment. The Court of Appeals held that a nunc pro tunc order cannot retroactively give finality to a non-final order. The Court also held that the “relation-forward” doctrine, under which a premature notice of appeal will be deemed to relate forward to the date when finality attaches, only applies when a final order is made interlocutory through the intervening filing of a post-judgment motion and the order subsequently becomes final without modification. The doctrine does not apply where the order being appealed was clearly interlocutory and did not include the finality language required by CR 54.02(1). In dissent, Judge Thompson argued that because the filing of a notice of appeal is not jurisdictional, the nunc pro tunc rule and the relation-forward doctrine should allow the appeal to proceed on the merits without requiring the filing of a new notice of appeal.

IV.   CIVIL PROCEDURE

Hughes v. Haas 
2012-CA-000826 08/30/2013 2013 WL 4620471 Released for Publication
Opinion by Judge Combs; Judges Clayton and VanMeter concurred. The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s order granting summary judgment in a negligence action resulting from a workplace accident. Appellant, an employee with Louisville Metro Corrections, sued the Clark County (Indiana) Sheriff’s Department and appellee Haas after suffering permanent hearing loss at a Metro training session held at a facility owned by Clark County and provided by the Sheriff’s Department. On appeal, appellant argued that Kentucky’s long-arm statute (KRS 454.210) applied to the Sheriff’s Department because its agreement with Metro was a contract that provided new skills for Metro employees to bring back to Kentucky. The Court rejected this position, noting that the skills learned by Metro employees at the training benefited the Commonwealth of Kentucky rather than the state of Indiana. Additionally, the training was not provided by the Sheriff’s Department in Indiana; it merely provided the facility and did not otherwise participate. Moreover, the service provided by the Sheriff’s Department – the use of its facility – was provided in Indiana. Merely making arrangements within the state of Kentucky to use the facility did not invoke the long-arm statute. Thus, the circuit court did not have jurisdiction over the Sheriff’s Department. The Court further held that appellee Haas was properly dismissed pursuant to KRS 342.690 because he and appellant were both acting as Metro employees at the time of the subject incident. Although Haas was also a volunteer special deputy of the Sheriff’s Department, he could not be sued as its agent because he was acting as a Metro employee at the time of appellant’s injury. 

IX.  NEGLIGENCE

Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. v. Maddox
2012-CA-000952 08/30/2013 2013 WL 4620488 DR Pending 

Opinion by Judge Combs; Judge Nickell concurred; Judge Maze concurred in part, dissented in part, and filed a separate opinion. The Court of Appeals held that the circuit court properly denied appellant’s motion for a directed verdict in a negligence action stemming from an automobile accident. Appellee alleged that appellant’s negligent design of appellant’s vehicle’s restraint system caused the severity of her injuries resulting from a head-on collision with another vehicle. In affirming, the Court held that evidence supported the jury’s finding of negligent design and that the circuit court did not err when it allowed a jury instruction regarding failure to warn. Additionally, the Court held that – based on the facts – appellee met the requirements for a prima facie claim of crashworthiness. Thus, the circuit court did not err in allowing the jury to be instructed on crashworthiness or in denying a directed verdict based on the elements of crashworthiness. The Court further held that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence of a recall of a vehicle produced by a different automobile manufacturer for the limited purpose of proving that the amount of excess webbing spooling from appellee’s seatbelt was dangerous. The Court finally held that the issue of punitive damages was properly presented to the jury because appellee’s claims were related to a flawed vehicle design and lack of warning. Judge Maze dissented solely on the issue of punitive damages, disagreeing that appellant’s actions surmounted the threshold of gross negligence. 

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