Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court vacated the portion of the opinion of the court of appeals holding that the section of Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.7305 treating hearing loss workers' compensation claimants differently from other types of traumatic injury claimants violated constitutional equal protection guarantees, holding that a rational basis existed for the unequal treatment. Under section 342.7305, workers' compensation claimants suffering hearing loss may not receive income benefits unless their whole person impairment rating is at least eight percent, but other types of non-hearing loss traumatic injury claimants need not meet this threshold impairment rating to qualify for income benefits. The court of appeals held that section 342.7305(2) was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals' opinion and affirmed the ALJ's determinations that the claimants in this case did not qualify for income benefits based on their impairment ratings, holding that a rational basis existed for the eight percent impairment threshold for income benefits. View "Teco/Perry County Coal v. Feltner" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the opinion of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the Workers' Compensation Board reversing the determination of an administrative law judge (ALJ) denying Roger Hall's claim for benefits pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. chapter 342, holding that the ALJ erred by finding that Hall's claim was barred under Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.316(4)(a). Hall developed mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos over the course of his employment. Hall brought a claim for benefits. The ALJ denied the claim, concluding that Hall's mesothelioma was caused by his exposure to asbestos during the course of employment but that his claim was untimely filed pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.316(4)(a). The Board reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the evidence compelled reversal of the ALJ's order. View "Letcher County Board of Education v. Hall" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the circuit court granting a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim in favor of Employer on Employee's complaint alleging wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, holding that the circuit court properly dismissed the complaint. Plaintiff alleged that she was terminated in retaliation for informing other workers that one of their supervisors was a registered sex offender or, at the least, that this was a substantial motivating factor in her termination. Specifically, Plaintiff claimed that the Kentucky Sex Offender Registration Act establishes a public policy that the sex offender registry should be open and accessible to the public at large. The circuit court granted Employer's motion to dismiss, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that even if a right to disseminate information from the sex offender registry existed to prevent termination for that dissemination, the dissemination would need to be effectuated in a manner consistent with appropriate workplace behavior and decorum. View "Marshall v. Montaplast of North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the opinion of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the Workers' Compensation Board affirming the ALJ's determination that Appellant was not entitled to benefits pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 342 in connection with his injury while working as a bus driver for Transit Authority of River City (TARC), holding that the ALJ's decision denying Appellant benefits was supported by substantial evidence. While operating a TARC bus Appellant was assaulted by a passenger, resulting in injuries. TARC denied Appellant's claim for benefits pursuant to the special defense provided in Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.610(3), asserting that Appellant was the aggressor in the altercation and that he acted outside of the scope of his employment. After reviewing the evidence, the ALJ denied Appellant benefits. The Board and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was substantial evidence supporting the ALJ's determination to deny benefits. View "Trevino v. Transit Authority of River City" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court that the agreement furnished to Carol Greissman for signature did not violate Kentucky Rules of the Supreme Court 3.130, Rule 5.6 as a matter of law, holding that an obligatory Rule of Professional Conduct for attorneys carries public policy weight and that the agreement did not violate Rule 5.6. Greissman, an attorney, was terminated by Rawlings & Associates for refusing to sign an agreement providing for non-solicitation of Rawlings & Associates' customers or clients following the end of her employment. Greissman subsequently brought a wrongful termination claim. The circuit court granted summary judgment for Rawlings & Associates. The court of appeals upheld the circuit court's ultimate decision dismissing Greissman's complaint but concluded that Greissman's complaint should have been dismissed for failure to state a claim because the Rules of the Kentucky Supreme Court did not provide the public policy to support Greissman's wrongful termination claim. The Supreme Court affirmed on other grounds, holding (1) for purposes of wrongful termination actions, an obligatory Rule of Professional Conduct for attorneys carries equal public policy weight as any public policy set forth in statute or the Constitution; and (2) the agreement in this case did not violate Rule 5.6. View "Greissman v. Rawlings & Associates, PLLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the opinion of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Board (Board) affirming the administrative law judge’s (ALJ) denial of Appellant’s claim for benefits pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 342, holding that the ALJ’s decision denying Appellant benefits was supported by substantial evidence. Appellant was injured while working as a bus driver for Transit Authority of River City (TARC). TARC denied Appellant’s claim for benefits pursuant to the special defense provided in Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.610(3). TARC argued that Appellant’s injuries was the result of Appellant acting as the aggressor in an altercation with a passenger and that Appellant acted outside the scope of his employment. The ALJ denied benefits pursuant to section 341.610(3). The Board and the court of appeals determined that there was substantial evidence supporting the ALJ’s determination to deny benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ALJ did not err in denying benefits. View "Trevino v. Transit Authority of River City" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals upholding the circuit court’s approval of Ray Thomas’s future periodic payments to DRB Capital, LLC in exchange for an immediate lump sum payment at a discounted rate after Thomas settled a workers’ compensation claim against his employer and its workers’ compensation insurer, holding that the underlying contracts’ anti-assignment clauses are enforceable and that the Kentucky Structured Settlement Protection Act (KSSPA) does not apply to workers’ compensation settlements. Less than six months after settling his claim, Thomas received the circuit court’s transfer approval. The circuit court approved the transfer pursuant to the KSSPA. The court of appeals upheld the circuit court’s approval. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that explicit anti-assignability clauses in the underlying contracts and statutory language limiting the KSSPA to tort settlements required reversal in this case. View "American General Life Insurance Co. v. DRB Capital, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court dismissing constitutional challenges to the validity of the Kentucky Right to Work Act, 2017 Ky. Acts ch. 1, 15, holding that the trial court did not err. In 2017, the Kentucky legislature passed, and the Governor signed, the Act. The Act amended Ky. Rev. Stat. 336.130(3) to provide that no employee is required to become, or remain, a member of a labor organization, or to pay dues, fees, or assessments to a labor organization. Plaintiff-unions filed an action challenging the Act on several Kentucky constitutional grounds. Specifically, Plaintiffs claimed that the Act violated the Kentucky Constitution’s provisions requiring equal protection of the laws, prohibiting special legislation, and prohibiting takings without compensation and that the Act was improperly designated as emergency legislation. The trial court granted the Commonwealth’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Unions’ constitutional challenges to the Act were without merit. View "Zuckerman v. Bevin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court, after a jury trial, in favor of Appellant on her claim that she was wrongfully terminated from her employment with the University of Louisville in violation of the Kentucky Whistleblower Act (KWA), Ky. Rev. Stat. 61.101-61.103, holding that the evidence at trial was sufficient to support the judgment entered upon the jury’s verdict. After a jury trial, Appellant was awarded damages in the form of back pay and mental anguish, but the trial court denied Appellant’s claim for front pay. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s verdict on whistleblower liability. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, contrary to the opinion of the court of appeals, the evidence supported the verdict of the jury in finding liability against the University. View "Harper v. University of Louisville" on Justia Law

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At issue was the role of the courts on judicial review of a final decision of the Kentucky Retirement Systems (KERS) as to a KERS member’s entitlement to disability retirement. A hearing officer recommended granting Plaintiff’s disability benefits application. The Board of Trustees of KERS (Board) denied Plaintiff’s application for disability benefits. The trial court affirmed the Board’s final order. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that substantial evidence compelled a finding in favor of Plaintiff. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the KERS Board’s final decision must be supported by substantial evidence; (2) the standard set forth in McManus v. Ky. Retirement Systems, 124 S.W.3d 454, 458 (Ky. App. 2003), in conjunction with Ky. Rev. Stat. 13B.150, provides the proper standard for judicial review of KERS disability retirement decisions; (3) the hearing officer’s credibility determinations are not binding on the Board; and (4) substantial evidence supported the Board’s decision in this case, and the evidence in favor of Plaintiff was not so compelling that no reasonable person could have failed to be persuaded by it. View "Kentucky Retirement Systems v. Ashcraft" on Justia Law