CIVIL PROCEDURE – Change in law not sufficient to support reopening case per CR 60.02: Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Hon. Robert G. Johnson, Judge & Jeff Sergent, Real Party in Interest (SC 3/19/2009)

Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. v. Hon. Robert G. Johnson, Judge & Jeff Sergent, Real Party in Interest
2007-SC-000647-MR March 19, 2009
Opinion by Justice Noble; all sitting.

In 1999, Sergent filed a wage and hour suit against Toyota. The Circuit Court granted Toyota’s motion to dismiss on the grounds that its jurisdiction was limited to reviewing final decisions of the Kentucky Department of Labor administrative proceedings. In 2005, the Kentucky Supreme Court issued its opinion in Parts Depot v. Beiswenger, which held that circuit courts have parallel jurisdiction with the KDOL over wage and hour claims. Based on this change in law, Sergent filed a CR 60.02 motion seeking to have his case against Toyota reopened. The Circuit Court granted the motion, and Toyota sought a writ of prohibition from the Court of Appeals, arguing that the Circuit Court was proceeding outside its jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals denied the writ.

The Supreme Court reversed, holding that a change in the law is not a sufficiently extraordinary circumstance to grant CR 60.02(f) relief except where direct injustice would result otherwise. Since Sergent still had a remedy via a KDOL administrative proceeding, the Court concluded there was no injustice, despite Sergent’s inability to receive an award of attorney fees or liquidated damages in that forum. While noting the deferential review given to grants of CR 60.02 relief, the Court held that the interests of fairness justified a finding of an abuse of discretion—particularly when the equities as they related to all parties involved were considered. In his dissent, Justice Cunningham (joined by Justice Venters), wrote that the majority was substituting its judgment for that of the lower court and that the majority could “point to no misapplication of the law or any unreasonable interpretation of existing precedent” by lower court.

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