Case Notes: Plaintiff prevails in excluding evidence at trial but loses $1.9 million verdict on appeal when it should have come in – Motorists Mutual Ins. Co. vs. Gypsie Thacker (COA, NPO 2/6/2015)

Adair Court House, built 1886 but with enlarged portion.  Image provided courtesy of Keith Vincent - www.CourtHouseHistory.com.

Adair Court House, built 1886 but with enlarged portion. Image provided courtesy of Keith Vincent – www.CourtHouseHistory.com.

Trying cases is tough.  You are in the arena which can seem like a war zone, making decisions in a blink of an eye, but always keeping the other eye looking to preserve errors for appeal so when the case is “tried” again on appeal.

However, this preservation of error can, and does, carry with it the potential of cutting both ways.  Plaintiff’s attorney, in this case, kept out the unfavorable evidence, the trial judge agreed, but the three judge panel from the Court of Appeals deemed otherwise, and ruled against the Plaintiff.

With nearly $2 million at stake, this is not over at the appellate level.  A petition for rehearing has been filed as of February 24, 2015 with no decision made as of the time of this post, and after that, let us not forget a Motion for Discretionary Review (MDR).

For those curious about the appellate jousting, click here for the case information page at the Court of Appeals on this case.

For the techno-curious and who might even be interested in some shape or fashion including links to case information at the COA or SC in their own web sites or blogs, here are two little behind the scene tricks I am willing to share with you:

 COA:
http://www.aoc.state.ky.us/coa_public/CaseInfo.aspx?case=2013CA000147
All you need do is insert the case number minus the hyphens for your case at the point noted by italics above and copy into your browser or in your “link”.

SC:  http://162.114.92.78/dockets/CaseDetail.asp?CaseNumber=2014SC000008
Ditto for the insertion of case number.

Here is a squib of the decision followed by extracts, then links to the full text at the AOC.  Click on continue reading to, uh uh, continue reading.

In Motorists Mutual Ins. Co. vs. Gypsie Thacker (NPO), the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a $1.9 million verdict for an uninsured motorist benefits suit from a Florida car accident when the trial court ruled in Plaintiff’s favor and denied defendant insurer access to plaintiff’s psychotherapy records after judge’s in camera review.  The trial judge ruled there was no information relevant to injury plaintiff’s claims nor would it lead to discovery of relevant evidence.   Thus, you can win the battle but lose the war.

Case Notes: Of bad faith and duties to defend, investigate and indemnify – Demetre vs. Indiana Insurance Co., COA Published, Jan. 30, 2015

Bad faith synonyms in a non-legal context should help provide context for this delict.

Bad faith synonyms in a non-legal context should help provide context for this delict. Screen capture from Thesaurus.com.

Is a reservation of rights and providing the insured counsel, a defense to statutory and contractual bad faith claims?  The Court of Appeals basically said – nope, it ain’t.  The following opinion by Judge Thompson provides not only a tight and succinct analysis of bad faith law, with a little bit of history Justice Leibson’s dissent in Federal Kemper, but one of the best explanations I have read on how emotional damages in the Osborne v. Keeney, 399 S.W.3d 1 (Ky. 2012) decision fit in to all of this.

The COA referenced the crux of Indiana’s defense – “Indiana Insurance argues it cannot be liable as a matter of law under any theories advanced because it provided defense counsel to Demetre and indemnification in compliance with the insurance policy provisions. To the extent it relies solely on its satisfaction of the express policy provisions, Indiana Insurance’s argument misses the mark. This is not a breach of contract action but is premised on three theories of bad faith, two based on statutory law and one on common law.”

Please look closely at the bad faith analysis and how Indiana Insurance Company treated its insured poorly by its conduct upon filing the claim by Demetre and its lack of investigation into the claim while hiding under a reservation of rights.  Briefly, “We have previously held an insurer cannot shield itself from its own bad faith actions by retaining legal counsel for its insured. “[I]t remains ultimately responsible for its own non-delegable statutory duty to properly investigate claims -19-and adjust them in harmony with the terms and conditions of its policy.” Hamilton Mut. Ins. Co. of Cincinnati v. Buttery, 220 S.W.3d 287, 294 (Ky.App. 2007). It was the conduct of Indiana Insurance, not the adequacy of Schenkel’s representation, that evidenced bad faith.”

However, I wish to highlight for you the emotional damages analysis of Osborne v. Keeney, 399 S.W.3d 1 (Ky. 2012) in the context of this decision.  No experts needed if the mental anguish and anxiety are damages from the cause of action, but experts ARE needed if the mental anguish and anxiety is an element of proof in the cause of action.  That makes a lot of sense to me.

The question is whether the heightened proof requirements in Osborne extends to bad faith claims under the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act where damages for mental anguish and anxiety have been traditionally permitted without an impact and without expert testimony. As noted in FB Ins. Co. v. Jones, 864 S.W.2d 926, 929 (Ky.App. 1993), the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act prohibits behavior that is egregious. Consequently, damages are available as permitted by KRS 446.070 which states: “A person injured by the violation of any statute may recover from the offender such damages as he sustained by reason of the violation, although a penalty or forfeiture is imposed for such violation.” In FB Insurance, the Court held those damages include damages for anxiety and mental anguish in claims pursuant to KRS 304.12-230. FB Insurance, 864 S.W.2d at 929.

In Motorists Mutual Ins. Co. v. Glass, 996 S.W.2d 437, 454 (Ky. 1997), the Court not only confirmed that damages for anxiety and mental anguish are recoverable in statutory bad faith claims, but it also set forth the proof required: 1 Indiana Insurance cites unpublished federal decisions applying Osborne in contexts other than statutory bad faith claims. We are not bound by those decisions predicting how Kentucky appellate courts would rule and do not find them persuasive on a factual basis. -26-“[E]ntitlement to such damages requires either direct or circumstantial evidence from which the jury could infer that anxiety or mental anguish in fact occurred.” Id.

Although written in the context of a violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, our Supreme Court has distinguished between statutory actions where emotional distress damages are recoverable and the elements of the tort of IIED which requires the distress be severe. In Childers Oil Co., Inc. v. Adkins, 256 S.W.3d 19, 28 (Ky. 2008), the Court expressly rejected any requirement that the plaintiff prove her emotional distress was severe. It pointed out the action was not filed as an IIED claim but was an action under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. It held the plaintiff’s testimony alone supported an award for anxiety and mental anguish and, because such damages were permissible, the question was simply whether the damages were excessive. Id.

Osborne did not alter the law cited. A claim brought under the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act is not a NIED or an IIED claim; it is a claim under the Act for compensatory damages, which include damages for emotional distress. In other words, emotional pain and suffering, stress, worry, anxiety or mental anguish are not elements of the cause of action but are consequences of the insurer’s violation of the Act for which the insured is entitled to be compensated.

THE INDIANA INSURANCE COMPANY VS. DEMETRE (JAMES)
OPINION AFFIRMING
THOMPSON (PRESIDING JUDGE) COMBS (CONCURS) AND STUMBO (CONCURS)
2013-CA-000338-MR TO BE PUBLISHED

Case Notes: Wrongful death claim accrued from date no later than defendant’s indictment (Flick vs. Estate of Christina Wittich; COA Published 2/6/2015)

Harlan County Court House, 1886. Photo from old postcard captured by Keith Vincent.  These and others can be found at his web site for all 50 states!  www.CourtHouseHistory.com

Harlan County Court House, 1886.
Photo from old postcard captured by Keith Vincent. These and others can be found at his web site for all 50 states! www.CourtHouseHistory.com

FLICK (MICHAEL JOSEPH)
VS.
THE ESTATE OF CHRISTINA WITTICH
COA, Published 2/6/2015
OPINION REVERSING AND REMANDING
MAZE (PRESIDING JUDGE); KRAMER (CONCURS) AND J. LAMBERT (DISSENTS AND WILL NOT FILE A SEPARATE OPINION)

MAZE, JUDGE: Michael Joseph Flick appeals from a judgment of the Fayette Circuit Court finding him liable for the wrongful death of Christina Wittich andawarding compensatory and punitive damages to Wittich’s Estate. Flick primarily argues that the trial court erred by denying his motion to dismiss because the complaint was filed beyond the one-year statute of limitations for wrongful death provided under KRS 1 413.140(1). We conclude that the cause of action against Flick accrued no later than the date of his indictment, and, by operation of KRS 413.180, the Estate had two years from that date to bring the complaint. Since this action was not brought within that time, the trial court erred by denying the motion to dismiss. Hence, we reverse the judgment and remand for entry of an order dismissing the complaint.

* * *

As noted above, it is well-established that an action for wrongful death is subject to the one-year statute of limitations in KRS 413.140(1). Conner, 834 S.W.2d at 653-54. Under KRS 413.180, the action must have been brought within one year from the appointment of the personal representative, but not more than two years from the date the cause of action accrued. KRS 413.190 allows the limitations period to be tolled for any period that the defendant “abscond[s] or conceal[s] himself or by any other indirect means obstructs the prosecution of the action ….” Thus, the statute of limitations did not accrue until the Estate knew or had reason to know of both the injury (Wittich’s death), and that it may have been caused by Flick’s conduct. Perkins v. Northeastern Log Homes, 808 S.W.2d 809, 819 (Ky. 1991).

* * *

Given the facts of the current case, we need not decide the precise date when the cause of action accrued. But under the circumstances, we conclude that the Estate had to know of its claim against Flick no later than the date of the indictment. At that point, the grand jury found probable cause to charge Flick with the murder. Furthermore, the grand jury was not bound by any prior probablecause determination in district court. Commonwealth v. Yelder, 88 S.W.3d 435, -7-437 (Ky. App. 2002). Thus, the Estate had until no later than July 18, 2007, to bring this action. The court in DiGiuro reasoned that the limitations period should be tolled because any civil claim would have to be stayed until the defendant was convicted of the murder. However, the Kentucky Supreme Court has recognized that certain civil claims may have to be brought before the related criminal charges are resolved. See Dunn v. Felty, 226 S.W.3d 68 (Ky. 2006), holding that the statute of limitations for false imprisonment accrues upon termination of the wrongful imprisonment, rather than on the date when the criminal charges are dismissed. Id. at 73-74. In such cases, the civil claim should be held in abeyance pending the outcome of the criminal trial. Id. at 74. We also note that Lambirth filed his civil claim against Flick within one year of the assault, although the action was held in abeyance until after Flick was convicted. Flick v. Lambirth, 2010 WL 4740292 (Ky. App. 2010)(2009-CA-001679-MR), at *3. We see no reason to apply a different standard to the current case.

Continue reading below for full text of this decision.

Case Notes: Another Court of Appeals, Post-Shelton, “open and obvious”, slip and fall, jury question, question – Ward vs. JKP Investments LLC and James Kevin Porter, COA Published 1/23/2015

Attorneys representing the injured claimants on the appeals in the Shelton v. Kentucky Easters Seals and Dicks Sporting Goods vs. Webb, both argued on same date. From Left to right - Kelly Spencer &  Brad Slutskin for Betty Webb, Joe Pepper for Wilma Jean Shelton, and Kevin Burke on Amicus Brief for Kentucky Justice Association

Attorneys representing the injured claimants on the appeals in the Shelton v. Kentucky Easters Seals and Dicks Sporting Goods vs. Webb, both argued on same date.
From Left to right – Kelly Spencer & Brad Slutskin for Betty Webb, Joe Pepper for Wilma Jean Shelton, and Kevin Burke on Amicus Brief for Kentucky Justice Association

The title of this post says it all, and to put it in perspective, I will lead with Judge Maze’s dissent from the majority in this decision (Judges Vanmeter and Kramer (formerly Moore)).  I was present during the oral arguments before the Supreme Court of Kentucky, have read the triad of decisions by SCOKY, and most unabashedly must confess Judge Maze, in my humble opinion, got it right.

And, when it comes to the human mind and foreseeability, I refer you to the book “the invisible gorilla” by Christoper Chabris and Daniel Simons.

Chief Justice Minton said it best, as follows, in Shelton:

We alter the analysis performed in this and future cases of this sort such that a court no longer makes a no-duty determination but, rather, makes a nobreach determination, dismissing a claim on summary judgment or directed verdict when there is no negligence as a matter of law, the plaintiff having failed to show a breach of the applicable duty of care. This approach places the reasonable-foreseeability analysis where it belongs—in the hands of the factfinders, the jury. This approach continues Kentucky’s, along with a growing number of states’, slow, yet steady, progress to modernize our tort law and eliminate unfair obstacles to the presentation of legitimate claims. And this approach brings transparency and consistency to the decision-making and reasoning of Kentucky’s judges.

Here are the three decisions from SCOKY:

I would suspect this issue will go up to the Supreme Court for a third time.  Especially, since attorney Joe Pepper was arguing for the injured party in both Shelton vs. Kentucky Easter Seals and Janice Ward vs. JKP Investments.  And come heck or high water, my wife, Diane and I will be present again.

Janice Ward vs. JKP Investments, LLC
COA Published 1/23/2015
Opinion affirming; Jefferson Cir. Ct. (Judge James M. Shake)
VANMETER, JUDGE: Janice Ward appeals from the Jefferson Circuit Court’s order dismissing via summary judgment her personal injury action against JKP Investments, LLC. Upon review of the record and applicable law, we affirm.

* * *

The Jefferson Circuit Court’s order is affirmed.

KRAMER, JUDGE, CONCURS.

MAZE, JUDGE, DISSENTS AND FILES SEPARATE OPINION.

MAZE, JUDGE, DISSENTING: I respectfully dissent. Though I find no fault with my colleagues’ summation of current premises liability law in Kentucky, I nevertheless believe that law compels a different result in the present case.

Following an initial attempt in Kentucky River Medical Center v. McIntosh, 319 S.W.3d 385 (Ky. 2010), our Supreme Court recently continued its efforts to square Kentucky’s premises liability law with the Commonwealth’s adherence to the doctrine of comparative negligence. Most notably, in Shelton v. Kentucky Easter Seals Society, Inc., 413 S.W.3d 901, 904 (Ky. 2013), the Supreme Court stated its intention to “alter the analysis performed in this and future cases of this sort such that a court no longer makes a no-duty determination but, rather, makes a no-breach determination” and to place “the reasonable-foreseeability analysis where it belongs-in the hands of the fact-finders, the jury.” The impact of the Court’s reasoning in Shelton, and even Dicks Sporting Goods, Inc. v. Webb, 413 S.W.3d 891 (Ky. 2013), on summary judgment in premises liability cases could hardly have been greater.

In its opinion in the present appeal, the majority contends that because the condition of the stair was not concealed, and because the plaintiff failed to observe its condition throughout her previous trips up and down the stairs, the risk posed by the crumbling step was not unreasonable. Hence, my colleagues conclude that “reasonable minds cannot differ or it would be unreasonable for a jury to find breach or causation” and that summary judgment was appropriate.

Due to the aforementioned changes in premises liability law, I must disagree with my colleagues, as I believe the case requires a jury’s determination.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Shelton expressly eliminated much of the emphasis on a condition’s “open and obvious” nature, removing it as a fact which, if shown, would absolve a defendant of his duty and placing it as a mere factor to be considered in determining breach and causation. This shifted the analysis from one of legal calculation to one of factual determination only to be summarily ended when reasonable minds could not differ as to breach and causation. I proffer that this is not the case.

Rather, in light of our Supreme Court’s decision in Shelton, I contend that the questions of foreseeability, Janice’s attention or inattention to the condition of the step and where she was stepping, and the open and obvious nature of the step must remain to inform a jury’s analysis of the defendant’s breach and even the comparative fault of the parties in this case. While the Supreme Court announced that summary judgment remains a viable possibility in premises liability cases, it is undeniably more difficult to obtain after Shelton. This being the case, and on these facts, I believe it was inappropriate for the trial court to grant summary judgment, and that the matter must proceed to a jury.

Continue reading for the entire text of the COA decision.

Case Notes: A River Runs Through It in Jurisdiction issues in case involving medical treatment in Louisville but followup surgery across the Ohio River (Cooper vs. Dr. Ajith Nair, Kentuckiana Pain Specialists and Metro Specialty Surgery Center, COA NPO 1/9/2015)

 

Screenshot capture from Google Maps.

Screenshot capture from Google Maps.

This decision highlights what the risks are when you select a Louisville physician who then ships you across the river to Indiana for surgery (where there is more favorable medical malpractice protection for the doctor but a most tortuous path for those who have been injured when trying to get their lives back from a doctor’s mistakes).  The doctors say it keeps their costs down by operating in Indiana, but another way to look at it is that it frustrates the patient’s care and needs, especially when the procedure is believed to have been botched.

Here’s the case and a recommended read for the limits of prosecuting medical negligence claims when a river runs through it.  Note, the decision indicates the actual act of negligence arose from the surgery in Indiana which has a two year statute of limitation with Kentucky having a one-year statute.  The lawsuit was filed in Kentucky on the eve of the one year Kentucky SOL (statute of limitation), and the trial court ruled nearly a half-year prior to the two-year SOL for Indiana.  Nothing was said in this opinion whether they was concurrent or subsequent filing in Indiana, and one can clearly understand the fight to stay in the Commonwealth to avoid the harsh and nearly insurmountable obstacles to recovery through the Indiana medical malpractice system.  Thus, the results might not be so harsh as originally suspected if there was concurrent filing in Kentucky and Indiana.  And, this my friends is why medical malpractice prosecution and defense is not for the faint hearted, and why the traffic snarls are not the only reason to stay on this side of the river when it comes to medical treatment.

And, of course, these litigants have yet to address the choice of law issues in this one, and will still have to navigate how the office visits and treatment might allow personal jurisdiction over Dr. Nair and Kentuckiana Pain Specialists.

Medical Negligence.  Venue and in personal jurisdiction re Indiana surgery center; Long Arm Statute (interesting read since physicians treated plaintiff in Louisville, but physician performed surgery in Indiana at the Metro Specialty Surgical Center)

Teddy Cooper vs.  Dr. Ajith Nair, M.D.
COA NPO 1/9/2015
Affirming in part, vacating in part and remanding;  Jefferson County

Teddy Cooper and Lori Cooper, his wife, appeal from the order of the Jefferson Circuit Court dismissing their negligence action against Dr. Ajith Nair; Kentuckiana Pain Specialists, P.S.C.; and Metro Specialty Surgery Center, L.L.C. On appeal, the Coopers argue that the trial court erred in determining that Jefferson County was not the proper venue for their claims and that the court lacked in personam jurisdiction over Metro Specialty Surgery Center, a business entity organized under the laws of Indiana and domiciled there. Having reviewed the record and the arguments of counsel, we affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand.

In this case, a Hardin County resident was treated by Dr. Nair at Kentuckiana Pain Specialists for 22 separate visits for low back complaints, but has back surgery in Indiana at the Metro Specialty Surgery Center.  One day before the one-year anniversary of the surgery, Cooper filed suit in Jefferson County against Dr. Nair, Kentuckiana Pain, and Metro Specialty Surgery Center claiming they deviated from the standard of care.  What was not included in the complaint was the basis for jurisdiction over Metro Surgery who raised personal jurisdiction and venue in defense.  It was not disputed that the med-mal claim was based upon the Indiana surgery.

Judge Bisig, Jefferson Circuit Court, dismissed the claims against Metro Surgery for lack of jurisdiction and dismissed the claims against Dr. Nair and Kentuckiana Pain for lack of venue.

Jurisdiction was noted to be a two-step process.   First was jurisdiction authorized under the long arm statute?  Second, does jurisdiction comport with federal due process.

While the Coopers are required to set forth the necessary facts supporting a finding of jurisdiction, they failed to identify to the trial court which of these circumstances was relevant to its  determination. Nor have they offered any basis for the exercise of  personal jurisdiction in their brief on appeal. Instead, the Coopers argue that they are entitled to an opportunity to conduct further discovery since they adduced evidence sufficient to show: that Dr. Nair is an agent of Metro Specialty Surgery Center; that other Kentucky doctors have a relationship with the surgery center; and that the surgery center maintains contact and does business with Kentucky patients. The Coopers contend that the trial court erred by denying them the opportunity to conduct further discovery with respect to these issues.

The Court of Appeals in an opinion written by Judge Combs concluded there was no personal jurisdiction over Metro Specialty Surgery Center.

It is undisputed that Metro Specialty Surgery Center is an Indiana business entity with its principal place of business in Jeffersonville, Indiana. It is not registered with the Kentucky Secretary of State, and it is not authorized to conduct business in the Commonwealth. In fact, given the breadth of services that it offers on an outpatient basis, it is specifically prohibited from conducting business here. It is undisputed that the surgery center  as not involved with the care and treatment that Teddy Cooper was offered or  provided in the Commonwealth. The surgery center provided care to him only  in Indiana. The surgery center does not supply goods nor does it contract to supply goods in the Commonwealth. It has no agents or employees working on its behalf in Kentucky. It maintains no office in Kentucky; it does not insure any party in the Commonwealth; it does not own property here; and the Coopers have never alleged that it caused tortious injury here. Under these circumstances, we  conclude that the requirements of our long-arm statute have not been satisfied.

However, with regard to personal jurisdiction over Dr.  Nair and Kentuckiana Pain Specialists, the COA vacated the order of the Jefferson Circuit Court “dismissing the claims asserted by the Coopers against Dr. Nair and Kentuckiana Pain Specialists and remand for further proceedings. However, based upon the foregoing analysis, we affirm the order of the court dismissing the claims asserted by the Coopers against Metro Specialty Surgery Center. ”

[continue reading below for the entirety of the appellate opinion]

Case Notes: Watch out for the 1 year Statute of Limitations and Premises Liability – Landel vs. The Kroger Company (COA NPO 1/16/2015)

Not actual parking lot in this case.  Used solely for illustrative purposes.

Not actual parking lot in this case. Used solely for illustrative purposes.

The one-year state of limitations for most torts may be the law, and may work in many cases, but it can be way too short in this era of trying to figure out who the proper party is in this complex world of hide the ball from the Plaintiff.  The recent Court of Appeals’ decision in Landel vs. Krogers out of Russell County demonstrates this in relationship to whose parking lot is it anyway.

In this case, Vickie Landel was a Kroger customer who fell and injured herself in the parking lot.  She filed suit against Krogers since it was the parking lot outside of the Krogers’ store.  She fell on March 10, 2011, and filed her original complaint on November 2, 2011, but sought to amend the complaint to add the shopping center on March 21, 2012 – just eleven days after the one year anniversary and the expiration of the statute of limitation.  The shopping center obtained summary judgment dismissing the complaint against it for untimely filing (SOL), and Krogers obtained a dismissal of the complaint since it had no duty over the parking lot.

The plaintiff Landel claimed she did not know the identity of the shopping center, but Krogers had notified her by letter that the shopping center was responsible and provided her a copy of the lease.

Before discussing the issue of tolling as raised by the plaintiff in this case, let us take a look at some lessons to be learned in this case and those of a similar nature.

The identity of the “real” plaintiff can be difficult in the commercial context, and the identification of the real party can be fatal.  Most Krogers’ stores, however, have the actual name of the owner of the store location in black letters on the window near the door.  The name of the entity can be confirmed at the Secretary of State for the proper name for the style and the proper person for service.  However, this does not get you past possible problems, such as a the dangerous condition of the floor was the work of a vendor (eg., the Brown Hotel case and indemnity), or the mats were placed and cleaned by a contractor, or as in this case the parking lot is not the store’s responsibiilty.    The solution, unfortunately, is “fast filing with fast followup” since delay and deny and do nothing by the defendant does not inure a benefit to the plaintiff.

Some useful techniques for getting around this improperly denominated party defendant are:  correcting a misnomer “, and CR 15.03 involving relation back of amendments (eg., nexus between corporations and/or subsidiaries and the relating back (An amended pleading that changes or adds defendants only relates back to the filing of the original pleading when (1) the claim in the amended complaint arose out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth in the original pleading; (2) the new party received notice of the institution of the action so that he will not be prejudiced in asserting his defense; and (3) the new party knows or should have known that without the mistake concerning identity, the action would have been brought against him. CR 15.03. party relates back.”  Within this context, I would have suspected that Krogers would have notified it lessor of the lawsuit (and thus notice under 15.03(2)(a) who would have know from the filing of the original complaint that they/shopping center would have been the proper party.

However, these outs are not an adequate solution to what I believe are the real problems: a. who they are may not be who you think they are with a name hidden in corporate names, agreements; and b. the insurer/insured may not be forthright about the correct identity of the responsible party (delay has its benefits, especially as the statute’s expiration approaches; and c. the  one-year is just too darn short when you have ten years for written contracts with the defendant usually self-evident, but with defective products made in China and distributed under other’s names).

The solution? Some are file soon, notice the corporate-representative for his/her deposition per CR 30.02(6).  The better solution is a longer statute of limitations with an easier tolling/relation back doctrine to avoid hide the ball and to allow the potential of resolving these cases short of suit.  One year.  Seriously!

For other posts on this blog about the statute of limitations, click here.

Case Notes: Looking at Res Ipsa Loquitur and Breach of Duty in the context of a one-car collision – Gilbert v. U-Haul (COA NPO 1/9/2015)

Photo is for blogging purposes and is NOT a photo involving this collision.  Photo from Depositphotos.com.

Photo is for blogging purposes and is NOT a photo involving this collision. Photo from Depositphotos.com.

It would be so much easier to prevail in personal injury cases if we did not have to worry about evidence to show duty and breach.  Negligence is usually not that difficult.  Oftentimes, we think that res ipsa loquitur may prove to be our salvation.  Bleachers just don’t fall unless someone did something wrong,  or a scalpel is left in following surgery.

Res ipsa Loquitur and breach of duty take center stage in this nonpublished decision from the Scott Circuit Court – Peggy Gilbert vs. U-Haul International Inc., Judd Road Storage and U-Haul and Thomas Gilbert, COA, NPO, 1/9/2015 which affirmed the trial court Judge Robert Johnson’s granting of summary judgment dismissing her claims against her husband.

This case will show that res ipsa loquitur (aka res ipsa) is not an easy solution for problems of proof of negligence (duty and breach).

A little background on how this case ended up with a dismissal of the wife’s claims against her husband.  Well, it was a single vehicle collision, with husband driving a truck with a U-Haul attached.  After filing suit, Peggy’s claims against the two U-Haul defendants settled, leaving the claim against Tom Gilbert, Peggy’s husband.

The hurdle was that Peggy had previously testified  in her deposition that she did not observe Tom driving incorrectly or inappropriately.  Now, she is trying to collect some money from her husband, or should I say, her husband’s liability insurance policy, but unable to offer her own evidence or observations on negligence what is she going to do?

The trial court gave her four months to obtain additional evidence, and the only thing she had was an affidavit from an accident reconstructionist that after reviewing the records who opined that the only way this accident could have been caused by was by error on the part of Tom, U-Haul, or both.

I present this case as a case note to demonstrate the issues that develop when you have a claim against your spouse and can’t give any evidence that your spouse was negligent other than res ipsa loquitur, aka “the think speaks for itself”.  We often bandy about the doctrine in a short-hand manner thinking its common sense approach will fill in the blanks.  However, it’s not that easy as this case details.  Briefly, it is a doctrine that states that the elements of duty of care and breach can sometimes be inferred from the very nature of an accident or other outcome, even without direct evidence of how any defendant behaved.

For more detailed analysis, then “continue reading” below.

Case Notes: Ward vs. Nationwide Assurance Co. COA NPO (non published opinion) 12/24/2014 Opinion Affirming; Jefferson County

The Supreme Court remanded the following case back to the Court of Appeals to render a decision consistent with State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company v. Hodgkiss-Warrick, 413 S.W.3d 875 (2013).

For what it’s worth and as a little background, here is a small summary of Ward’s earlier holding that went up to SCOKY before going back down for a different ruling:

Ward v. Nationwide Assurance Co.
COA Not Published 9/13/2013
Underinsured Motorist Benefits Offset Not Enforceable
COA applied the public policy exception to the conflicts of law test and held  the set- off provision contained in Ward’s insurance policy and authorized under Virginia law is contrary to Kentucky public policy.  The UIM set-off provision would have resulted in reducing the available UIM coverage under the out of state policy by the amount of liability insurance available.

Insurance.  Choice of Law. UIM (Underinsured motorist benefits).  Affirming trial court’s application of Virginia law and policy regarding offset for liability insurance.
Ward vs. Nationwide Assurance Co.
COA NPO (non published opinion) 12/24/2014
Opinion Affirming;  Jefferson County

ACREE, CHIEF JUDGE: This matter is before us on remand from the Kentucky Supreme Court to reconsider our previous opinion in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company v. Hodgkiss-Warrick, 413 S.W.3d 875 (2013). Upon further consideration, we conclude the public-policy exception to our traditional conflicts-of-law analysis offers no safe harbor to the appellant under the specific facts of this case and, therefore, the circuit court correctly determined that Virginia law governs this dispute.

For entire text of decision, continue reading below: