Kentucky Appeals Court overturns jury verdict in bike accident case

by Mandy Hicks

The Kentucky Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial after evidence was improperly excluded in a bike accident case. In Motorists Mutual Insurance Company v. Thacker, a Pikeville, Kentucky resident was struck by a motor vehicle while riding her bicycle near Palm Beach, Florida. As a result of the crash, the woman endured multiple broken bones and a traumatic head injury. The woman also apparently required psychiatric treatment following the bike accident. After the driver’s liability insurer paid the woman the full policy limits of $20,000 for her accident injuries, she filed a lawsuit in Pike County Circuit Court seeking underinsured motorist (UIM) benefits from her own auto insurance company.

Following a trial, a jury returned a $3.9 million verdict against the woman’s UIM insurer. The jurors also found that the woman was 50 percent responsible for her injuries. The trial court offset the financial compensation the woman received from the motorist’s liability carrier before awarding her more than $1.9 million. The UIM insurer then appealed the jury’s verdict to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

On appeal, the UIM carrier asserted several errors, including the trial court’s refusal to allow discovery related to the woman’s psychotherapy records. Although the woman’s psychotherapist referred her to another mental health practitioner for treatment following the collision, the insurance company claimed her prior psychotherapy records were necessary in order to compare her mental status before and after the accident. In addition, the doctor who treated the woman following her injury stated the collision exacerbated a pre-existing mental condition. Because of this, the UIM insurer argued the evidence was needed in order to effectively rebut the expert testimony that was offered at trial by the woman.

The injured woman countered by arguing that her psychotherapy records were privileged under Rule 507 of the Kentucky Rules of Evidence. According to the woman, the treatment she received prior to the collision was not admissible because it focused on her substance abuse issues rather than her mental health.

The appeals court stated Kentucky Rules of Evidence 507(c)(3) provides an exception to the privilege at issue when a patient’s mental health condition is asserted “as an element of a claim or defense” in a court proceeding. In addition, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in Dudley that a defendant may discover relevant mental health records when a plaintiff asserts a mental distress cause of action. As a result, the appellate court held that the UIM insurer was entitled to review the injured woman’s psychotherapy records.

After examining a number of the UIM insurer’s other claims of error, the Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s judgment and remanded the case for a new trial.

If you were seriously injured in a Kentucky truck accident or other traffic collision, you should contact a knowledgeable Bowling Green personal injury lawyer as soon as you are able. To schedule a free, confidential consultation with a hardworking attorney, call English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP at (270) 781-6500 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Motorists Mutual Insurance Company v. Thacker, Ky: Court of Appeals 2015

More Blog Posts:

Kentucky Court Finds Virginia Law Applies in Tractor-Trailer Wreck Dispute, February 12, 2015, Kentucky Personal Injury Attorneys Blog

Shelby County Car Accident Case brings $1 million verdict for plaintiff, February 9, 2015, Kentucky Personal Injury Attorneys Blog