Kentucky Supreme Court Revisits Premises Liability Case Dating Back to 2007

by Mandy Hicks

Attorneys who routinely handle personal injury cases often tell clients that it can take anywhere from a few months to several years for their case to make its way through the courts or settle.

Typically, however, the litigation process does not take anywhere near as long as it did in a case decided in March by the Kentucky’s highest court. In that case, a decade passed between the plaintiff’s initial injury and the court’s decision.

One factor that extended the case’s time in the courts was a change in the applicable law while the case was pending. Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, the court’s decision required their case to, once again, be remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, which the Kentucky Supreme Court noted had “a long procedural history,” the plaintiff was a woman who was injured in a “trip and fall” accident at a filling station in Manchester, Kentucky, in 2007. The case was tried to a judge in 2010 and resulted in a verdict for the plaintiff (and her husband, who joined in the case to assert a loss of consortium claim) for $200,000.

The court of appeals reversed. In a previous decision, the state supreme court remanded the case to the court of appeals for reconsideration in light of the recent case law on the “open and obvious” doctrine. After the court of appeals found that its previous decision was in line with the supreme court’s recent rulings in cases involving the doctrine, the plaintiffs again sought the review of the state’s highest court.

Decision of the Court

The Kentucky Supreme Court again reversed the court of appeals’ ruling in favor of the defendants, agreeing with the plaintiffs that the intermediate appellate panel had read the recent case law too narrowly. After deciding that the defendants were not entitled to a directed verdict under the open and obvious doctrine, the court remanded the case to the trial court for a consideration of whether the plaintiff was partially at fault for the accident.

Insofar as Kentucky follows the doctrine of pure comparative fault, the plaintiff’s own fault in the accident may serve to reduce her damages award in proportion to such fault, but her own negligence is not a total bar to recovery unless she is determined to be 100% at fault.

Interestingly, the majority opinion from the Kentucky Supreme Court was some 42 pages in length, with an additional 10 pages addressing the various concurrences and dissents from the majority opinion.

Get Legal Assistance from a Knowledgeable Kentucky Attorney

There are many ways in which the carelessness or negligence of a business, individual, or even governmental entity can cause serious harm to innocent people. If you or a loved one has been hurt because someone else failed to act in a reasonably prudent manner, the experienced Kentucky personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP, in Bowling Green can help. Call us at (270) 781-6500 to schedule a free, confidential case evaluation of your Kentucky or Tennessee injury case today.

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