Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court

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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

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The Supreme Court held that Plaintiff failed to meet the standard for judicial reversal of the Kentucky Retirement System (KERS) Board’s administrative decision to deny Plaintiff disability retirement benefits and thus affirmed the denial of benefits. The Board denied Plaintiff, a member of KERS, disability retirement benefits. The circuit court reversed on judicial review. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded for reinstatement of the Board’s final decision denying Plaintiff’s claim, holding that the standard for judicial reversal of the Board’s decision was not met. On discretionary review, Plaintiff challenged the standard of judicial review set forth in McManus v. Kentucky Retirement Systems, 124 S.W. 3d 454 (Ky. App. 2003), and expressly adopted by the Supreme Court in Kentucky Retirement Systems v. Brown, 336 S.W.3d 8 (Ky. 2011). The Supreme Court held (1) the McManus standard remains proper; and (2) Plaintiff did not meet the standard for judicial reversal of the Board’s administrative decision. View "Bradley v. Kentucky Retirement Systems" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the Workers’ Compensation Board’s decision affirming the decision of the administrative law judge concluding that Katherine Rudd was entitled to the two-multiplier under under Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.730(1)(c)(2), holding that a workers’ compensation claimant is entitled to the two-multiplier when that individual voluntarily chooses to retire. At issue was whether the two-multiplier under section 342.730(1)(c)(2) applies to a claimant’s benefits when the claimant returns to work and later retires for reasons not solely related to the work-related injury itself. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment below, holding that, under the circumstances presented in this case, the two-multiplier must be applied to comply with the unambiguous language of the statute. View "Active Care Chiropractic, Inc. v. Rudd" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals concluding that the Kentucky Coal Employers Self-Insurers Guaranty Fund was fully responsible for McCoy Elkhorn Coal Corporation’s workers’ compensation liabilities, including a thirty percent enhancement arising from the employer’s safety violations. Farley Sargent II was fatally injured while working in a mine. The decedent’s statutory beneficiaries settled their workers’ compensation claims with his employer, McCoy Elkhorn, leaving a bifurcated issue regarding enhanced benefits. The administrative law judge concluded that the decedent’s survivors and estate were entitled to the thirty percent increase of workers’ compensation payments that would otherwise be if the accident was caused by the employer’s failure to comply with statutes or regulations regarding workplace safety. See Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.165(1). At issue before the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court was whether the Guaranty Fund, which assumed the obligations of McCoy Elkhorn, its insolvent member, could be held responsible for the thirty percent enhancement. The Supreme Court held that the Court of Appeals correctly concluded that the Guaranty Fund was fully responsible for McCoy Elkhorn’s workers’ compensation liabilities. View "McCoy Elkhorn Coal Corp. v. Sargent" on Justia Law

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Class action is available to plaintiffs seeking recovery under the State’s prevailing-wage law, Ky. Rev. Stat. 337.505-550, and the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in certifying the underlying action for backpay and statutory damages under the prevailing-wage law as a class action. A group of plaintiffs, claiming for themselves and for other similarly situated, brought the underlying action to recover backpay and statutory damages as authorized by section 337.505-550, asserting that they were not paid prevailing wages, benefits, or overtime in connection with their employment as truck drivers. The trial court granted Plaintiffs’ motion to certify this action as a class action under Ky. R. Civ. P. 23. The court of appeals vacated the class-action certification order, concluding that Plaintiffs had failed to establish commonality, one of the prerequisites to support a class action. In a separate concurring opinion, the judge argued that section 337.550(2) does not permit class action suits at all. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) class-action lawsuits are allowed under section 337.550(2); and (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion when certifying the class in this case. View "Hensley v. Haynes Trucking, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals determining that Appellant, Auslander Properties, LLC, was an “employer” and thus subject to certain employee safety regulations promulgated pursuant to the Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Act (KOSHA), Ky. Rev. Stat. 338, and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), 29 U.S.C. 651 et seq., and that Appellant had violated duties owed to Appellee, Joseph Herman Nalley, under KOSHA. The trial court awarded Nalley compensatory damages for serious personal injuries he sustained while working on a roof at property owned by Appellant. The Supreme Court remanded the case for dismissal of Nalley’s claim, holding (1) contrary to Nalley’s argument, Appellant properly appealed the denial of summary judgment seeking reversal of the trial court judgment; and (2) Appellant was entitled to dismissal of the negligence per se claim because Nalley was an independent contractor rather than an employee of the LLC, and the responsibility for complying with safety laws applicable to the specialized work Nalley was performing at the time of his injury was upon Nalley. View "Auslander Properties, LLC v. Nalley" 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 upholding the decision of the administrative law judge (ALJ), which awarded Michael R. Plumley permanent partial disability benefits. On appeal, the Court held that the ALJ did not err (1) by relying upon the medical report of Dr. Greg Snider, who evaluated Plumley under the range-of-motion method and used terminology different from that which Plumley would use to describe essentially the same condition; (2) by finding that Plumley had three distinct work-related injuries, for each of which the ALJ made three tandem benefit awards rather than a single-injury with a single-benefit award; and (3) in his use of modifier multipliers. View "Plumley v. Kroger, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the Workers’ Compensation Board (Board) affirming the decision of the administrative law judge (ALJ) awarding Donald Jobe benefits regarding his back. Jobe, an employee of Ford Motor Company, suffered a right hip injury stemming from a work-related accident. Jobe applied for workers’ compensation benefits, asserting that he sustained a low back impairment due to the hip injury. The ALJ found that Jobe’s work-related hip injury was a proximate cause of his low back impairment and awarded Jobe benefits for a fourteen percent permanent partial disability, temporary total disability benefits for the periods he was off work due to his back impairment, and medical benefits. The Board affirmed, concluding that the ALJ had substantial evidence to support his finding that Jobe’s low back impairment had a causal connection to the work-related injury. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ALJ based his decision that Jobe’s back impairment was work-related on substantial evidence. View "Ford Motor Co. v. Jobe" on Justia Law