PRESERVING ISSUES ON APPEAL AND PRE-IMPACT FEAR DAMAGES: STEEL TECHNOLOGIES, INC. V. CONGLETON (SC 6/21/2007)

STEEL TECHNOLOGIES, INC. V. CONGLETON
APPEALS:  Failure to preserve error for appeal
DAMAGES:  No pre-impact fear for pain and suffering
2005-SC-000551-DG.pdf
PUBLISHED: AFFIRMING IN PART AND REVERSING IN PART
MAJORITY OPINION BY NOBLE; MCANULTY CONCURS BY SEP OP; MINTON NOT SITTING
LOWER: GALLATIN COUNTY
DATE RENDERED: 6/21/2007

In this wrongful death case, the jury awarded the appellees $3,767,267 in damages, which included $1 million in punitives and $100,000 in pre-impact fear damages.   Melissa Congleton died at the scene when improperly secured steel coils fell off a truck and struck her car, killing her almost instantly. The trial judge granted a directed verdict for the defendant denying any claims for pain and suffering after the impact  but instructed the jury on pre-impact fear.  On appeal the issues centered on insufficiency of the evidence, pre-impact fear, and punitive damages.  In striking down appellant’s motion for judgment NOV, the Supreme Court held it was the appellant’s duty to preserve a complete  record on appeal, and failure to prove that it had made a mid-trial directed verdict motion was fatal to its post-trial claim regarding the insufficiency of the evidence.  Even though a portion of the trial was not recorded, the Court concluded appellants were not without other means to preserve the record and vague comments during jury instructions regarding objections did not suffice.  The award for  “pre-impact” fear damages was reversed based upon Kentucky’s adherence to the “impact rule”. Emotional distress must be caused by the contact and not just accompanied by the contact.  The punitive damages award did not violate due process as some level of reprehensibility was present and when compared to the amount of direct compensatory damages awarded.

 

Digested by Michael Stevens

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