Insurance Dispute Following Fatal Semi Crash Will be Decided by Greenup County Court: Estate of Ferrell v. J and W Recycling, Inc.

by Mandy Hicks

The Kentucky case Estate of Ferrell v. J & W Recycling, Inc. involved a semi truck and car accident in which both drivers died. The two drivers were killed when an automobile and a tractor-trailer collided in Greenup County, Kentucky, in 2011. The driver of the semi-truck was apparently operating the commercial vehicle during the course of his employment for a recycling company. When the accident occurred, the recycling business carried commercial general liability insurance. Still, the company’s insurer refused to honor the policy and indemnify the business after the fatal accident.

Following the tragic wreck, the wife of the automobile driver filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the recycling business. According to her complaint, the accident resulted in part from improper truck loading by a forklift operator. After nearly two years of litigation, the man’s wife and the recycling company agreed upon a settlement in which the business admitted fault for the deadly collision. As part of the agreement, the decedent’s wife accepted the recycling company’s rights under its liability insurance policy. When she filed a petition with the court to “adjudge the existence of coverage” under the policy the insurer sought to move the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky based upon diversity jurisdiction.

28 U.S.C. § 1332 allows a party to a lawsuit to remove a case from state court where the parties are residents of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. The Federal Declaratory Judgment Act, however, allows a federal court to refuse jurisdiction where appropriate. After examining several factors, the federal court declined to hear the case.

According to the Eastern District of Kentucky, the Greenup County Court was in a better position to evaluate the facts of the lawsuit since the state court already presided over nearly two years of ongoing discovery. Additionally, the court stated the case should remain with the state court because several of the unanswered questions at issue relate to Kentucky law and the states are tasked with regulating insurance companies. The federal court added that refraining from exercising jurisdiction was appropriate in the case due to public policy concerns. Since there was no federal question at issue and the State of Kentucky’s interest in the case outweighed that of a federal court, the Eastern District of Kentucky remanded the case back to state court.

Due to the size and weight of tractor-trailers, collisions often result in permanent personal injuries or death. In addition, truck accidents in Kentucky and elsewhere normally involve unique and complicated pieces of evidence. This case shows that navigating the legal hurdles that may accompany a big rig accident lawsuit can be overwhelming.

If you were injured or a loved one was killed in a Kentucky semi-truck crash, you need a personal injury lawyer on your side to help you protect your rights. Consult with an attorney as soon as possible to determine whether any relief is available to you. Contact English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP through our website or give our experienced attorneys a call at (270) 781-6500 today.

Additional Resources:

Estate of Ferrell v. J & W Recycling, Inc., Dist. Court, ED Kentucky 2014

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