Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the opinion of the court of appeals affirming a workers' compensation board opinion that affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded the order and opinion of the administrative law judge (ALJ) for further findings of fact concerning whether Appellant was, pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.610(w), an up-the-ladder employer of Randy Medlin, holding that there was a factual error present in the original ALJ analysis. On appeal, Appellant argued that the portion of the ALJ's opinion and order finding that Appellant was not an up-the-ladder employer pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.610(2) was based on substantial evidence and, accordingly, the Board erred in not affirming the ALJ's decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ALJ's determination was based upon a misconstruction of Uninsured Employers' Fund v. Ritchie, No. 2012-SC-00746-WC, 2014 WL 1118201 (Ky. Mar. 20, 2014). View "Tryon Trucking, Inc. v. Medlin" 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 affirming the decision of the administrative law judge (ALJ) denying benefits to Appellant for a knee injury and two back surgeries, finding they were not causally related to his employment and therefore not compensable, holding that the ALJ's conclusions were supported by substantial evidence. The ALJ awarded Appellant temporary total disability, permanent partial disability, and medical benefits for a back strain he sustained while employed but denied benefits for his knee injury and back surgeries. The board and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the ALJ's finding that Appellant's knee injury was not work-related and therefore not compensable was supported by substantial evidence; and (2) the ALJ's conclusions regarding Appellant's back surgeries were supported by substantial evidence. View "Wilkerson v. Kimball International, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the opinion of the court of appeals affirming the administrative law judge's (ALJ) award of permanent partial disability benefits based on Employee's treating doctor's impairment rating, holding (1) Employee met his burden of proving the extent of the injury attributable to his work injury; but (2) the court of appeals erred in holding that Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.730(4) was not retroactive. Specifically, the Court held (1) the ALJ relied upon substantial evidence in finding Employee's work injury to be the combination of the exacerbation of a dormant pre-existing condition and a new injury; and (2) while the court of appeals was correct in addressing the retroactivity of section 342.703(4), the court erred in holding that the statute was not retroactive. The Court remanded this matter to the ALJ for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "Holcim v. Swinford" on Justia Law

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In this workers' compensation enforcement action the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals dismissing in part and reversing in part the circuit court's order granting Appellant's third, fourth, and fifth motions for partial summary judgment, holding that the court of appeals erred in not dismissing Appellees' appeal from the portion of the circuit court's order granting summary judgment to Appellant on his third and fifth motions for partial summary judgment. Appellees, Appellant's employer and its workers' compensation insurance carrier, appealed the circuit court's order granting Appellant's third, fourth, and fifth motions for partial summary judgment. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal from the portion of the order granting Appellant's fourth motion for partial summary judgment as an appeal from an interlocutory order, but it refused to dismiss the remainder of the appeal. The Supreme Court held that the court of appeals should have dismissed the appeal from the portions of the circuit court's order granting summary judgment to Appellant on his third and fifth motions for partial summary judgment, along with his fourth partial summary judgment motion, as being an appeal from a nonfinal order. View "Hampton v. Intech Contracting, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals granting in part and denying in part Appellant's petition for a writ to prohibit the trial court from compelling her husband's deposition testimony, thereby denying Appellant's writ petition in whole, holding that the trial court did not err in allowing the deposition to move forward. Appellant filed suit against Baptist Healthcare, Inc., her former employer, alleging, inter alia, gender discrimination. Baptist sought to depose Dr. Gregory Collins - Appellant's husband, treating physician, and employer - but Appellant objected to the deposition based on the husband-wife privilege. Baptist then filed a motion to compel Collins's testimony. The trial court granted in part and denied in part the motion, ordering that Baptist could depose Collins on three specified topics. The court of appeals granted Appellant's writ of prohibition as it related to Collins's testimony of Lucas's public manifestations of emotional health but denied the writ as it related to the other two topics. The Supreme Court held that the trial court's order appropriately limited Collins's deposition testimony and properly allowed the deposition to take place subject to additional objections or assertions of privilege. View "Lucas v. Honorable Judith E. McDonald-Burkman" on Justia Law

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In a whistleblower action, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and remanded in part the order of the court of appeals denying the petition for a writ of prohibition/mandamus sought by the University of Louisville and Ruby Fenton, holding that remand was necessary in this case. Plaintiff filed this whistleblower action against the University after the University did not renew his faculty appointment. During discovery, Plaintiff served a subpoena upon Fenton seeking all written communications and notes reflecting communications between Fenton and any person associated with the University relating to faculty grievance proceedings initiated by Plaintiff. Fenton represented Plaintiff's supervisors during the grievance proceedings. The University and Fenton asserted that the communications were protected by the attorney-client privilege and the work-product privilege. The trial court permitted the discovery. Fenton and the University then filed this writ of prohibition/mandamus. The court of appeals denied the writ. The Supreme Court held (1) the lower courts did not err in determining the the attorney-client privilege was not applicable under these circumstances; but (2) the court of appeals did not rule upon the University and Fenton's request for protection of the subject communications based upon the work-product privilege. View "University of Louisville v. Honorable Audra Eckerle" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals upholding an Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) award of six percent permanent partial disability benefits to Appellant because of a work-related injury, holding that substantial medical evidence supported the six percent permanent partial disability found by the ALJ. On appeal, Appellant argued that the ALJ erred by making insufficient findings to exclude a pre-existing condition in assessing his impairment rating. The Workers' Compensation Board concluded that remand was necessary for the ALJ to address Finley v. DBM Technologies, 217 S.W.3d 261 (Ky. App. 2007). The court of appeals disagreed, holding that the ALJ did not need to apply Finley and that the ALJ based her opinion on substantial medical evidence. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ALJ did not err in limiting her discussion of Finley and that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's findings. View "Wetherby v. Amazon.com" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court accepted certificate of a question of law from a federal district court and answered that Seven Counties Services, Inc.'s participation in and its contributions to the Kentucky Employees Retirement System (KERS) are based on a statutory obligation, rather than a contractual obligation. In 1979, the then-Governor designated Seven Counties, a non-profit provider of mental health services, a "department" for purposes of participating in KERS, a public pension system. Thereafter, Seven Counties paid into KERS to secure retirement benefits for its employees. In 2013, Seven Counties initiated bankruptcy proceedings primarily to reject its relationship with KERS as an executory contract. KERS countered that Seven Counties should be required to comply with its statutory obligations to contribute to KERS. The bankruptcy court determined that Seven Counties' relationship with KERS was contractual and, therefore, that Seven Counties could reject the contract in bankruptcy and leave the retirement system. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the relationship between KERS and Seven Counties was statutory. View "Kentucky Employees Retirement System v. Seven Counties Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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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