Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court

by
The Court of Appeals correctly applied the principles of Cincinnati Insurance Co. v. Motorist Mutual Insurance Co., 306 S.W.3d 69 (Ky. 2010), to hold that a contractor’s faulty workmanship on the basement and foundation of an existing structure, which resulted in extensive damage to the entire building, was not an accident triggering coverage as an occurrence under the contractor’s commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policy. The policy provided that the insurer (Insurer) would pay for property damage if it resulted from an “occurrence.” The trial court ruled that Plaintiff could recover from Insurer under the policy for the damage to the structure above the basement level because the damage was an unexpected and unintended consequence of the contractor’s faulty work on the basement. The court of appeals reversed, ruling that none of the structural damage qualified as an accident triggering coverage as an occurrence under Insurer’s CGL policy. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court failed to focus on the proper elements from Cincinnati. View "Martin/Elias Properties, LLC v. Acuity, a Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the circuit court’s entry of a declaratory judgment in favor of Big Sandy Company, LP, interpreting a pipeline easement agreement (the Agreement) in Big Sandy’s favor. In 2003, Big Sandy entered into the Agreement with Kentucky West Virginia Gas Company, LLC (KWVA), the predecessor in interest of EQT Gathering, LLC and EQT Production Company (collectively, EQT). EQT filed suit against Big Sandy requesting declaratory relief regarding the interpretation and scope of the Agreement. The trial court concluded that Big Sandy’s interpretation prevailed. The court of appeals reversed, holding that Big Sandy’s interpretation would be absurd and render much of the Agreement meaningless. The Supreme court reversed, holding that the trial court properly interpreted the Agreement. View "Big Sandy Co., L.P. v. EQT Gathering, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In this construction dispute, Plaintiff was not entitled to relief on its breach of contract claim or under a quantum meruit theory. Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a subcontract agreement that outlined services that Plaintiff was to perform as a subcontractor for the construction of the Bridge Street Bridge. Plaintiff later sued Defendant for breach of contract and quantum meruit in the alternative, asserting that the parties had entered into a separate agreement before the subcontract agreement and that, under that alleged agreement, Defendant was obligated to pay for additional work performed. The circuit court granted Defendant’s motion for judgment for the pleadings, concluding that the subcontract agreement was a complete integration of the dealings between the parties. The court of appeals determined that it was unclear whether the subcontract agreement was a full integration or a partial integration. Thus, the court declared that whether any additional work Plaintiff allegedly performed was covered by the subcontract agreement was an issue of fact for the jury. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) by its own terms, the subcontract agreement was a full integration of the parties’ contract for Plaintiff’s subcontracting work on the bridge; and (2) Plaintiff was not entitled to relief under a quantum meruit theory. View "Vanhook Enterprises, Inc. v. Kay & Kay Contracting, LLC" on Justia Law

by
In this construction dispute, Plaintiff was not entitled to relief on its breach of contract claim or under a quantum meruit theory. Plaintiff and Defendant entered into a subcontract agreement that outlined services that Plaintiff was to perform as a subcontractor for the construction of the Bridge Street Bridge. Plaintiff later sued Defendant for breach of contract and quantum meruit in the alternative, asserting that the parties had entered into a separate agreement before the subcontract agreement and that, under that alleged agreement, Defendant was obligated to pay for additional work performed. The circuit court granted Defendant’s motion for judgment for the pleadings, concluding that the subcontract agreement was a complete integration of the dealings between the parties. The court of appeals determined that it was unclear whether the subcontract agreement was a full integration or a partial integration. Thus, the court declared that whether any additional work Plaintiff allegedly performed was covered by the subcontract agreement was an issue of fact for the jury. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) by its own terms, the subcontract agreement was a full integration of the parties’ contract for Plaintiff’s subcontracting work on the bridge; and (2) Plaintiff was not entitled to relief under a quantum meruit theory. View "Vanhook Enterprises, Inc. v. Kay & Kay Contracting, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court in this action arising from a construction dispute. Two subcontractors - the steel fabricator and the steel erector and installer - on a condominium project brought suit against the project owner, developer, and general contractor after the subcontractors proceeded with extra work outside the scope of the original bid documents but were never paid for either that work or the retainage amount owed under the steel fabricator’s contract with the general contractor. The circuit court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff for the cost of the extra work and unpaid retainage. The general contractor prevailed on its indemnification cross-claim against the other two defendants and on the negligence cross-claim asserted against it by the other two defendants. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court held that the court of appeals (1) erred by reversing the trial court’s judgment against the owner for unjust enrichment; (2) properly reversed the trial court’s judgment against the general contractor for breach of contract; and (3) properly found that the trial court should have instructed the jury on the owner and developer’s breach of contract claim but erred in finding the negligence instruction deficient. View "Superior Steel, Inc. v. Ascent at Roebling’s Bridge, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the lower courts in this action brought by Janet Cropper against her former employers - the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington, Saint Augustine School, and the pastor of the Saint Augustine Church (collectively, Saint Augustine) - claiming damages for, inter alia, breach of her employment contract, holding that the trial court and court of appeals did not err when they ruled that Cropper was not barred from asserting her breach of contract claim. The trial court ruled that Cropper’s claims were not barred by the ecclesiastical-abstention doctrine but ultimately ruled that, as a matter of law, Cropper could not show a breach of her employment contract. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s determination that Cropper could not prove a breach of contract. The Supreme Court affirmed the result reached by the court of appeals and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine did not apply to the facts of this case. View "Saint Augustine School v. Cropper" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the circuit court denying the University of Louisville’s (U of L) immunity against suit in this case. After Mark Rothstein’s Distinguished University Scholar (DUS) contract was terminated, Rothstein filed suit against U of L for breach of a written contract. The circuit court denied U of L’s argument that sovereign immunity barred Rothstein’s claims for breach of the written contract, finding instead that Ky. Rev. Stat. 45A, which waives immunity for breach of contract actions against the Commonwealth, was applicable to written employment contracts. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the legislature has waived immunity for all claims arising out of lawfully authorized written contracts with the Commonwealth and its agencies. View "University of Louisville v. Rothstein" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court vacated the opinion of the court of appeals ruling that the circuit court prematurely granted specific performance of an option contract because disputed issues of fact material to that form of relief had been left unresolved in the circuit court. The circuit court granted the motion for specific performance of a real estate option contract between AEP Industries, Inc. (AEP) and B.G. Properties, Inc. (BG). The court of appeals determined that the circuit court had not adequately addressed the threshold issue of whether, as alleged by BG, AEP had first violated the option agreement with a faulty appraisal and thus was barred from seeking specific performance. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that BG’s execution and delivery of a general warranty deed without an express reservation of rights and its acceptance of stated consideration for the transfer precluded its further challenge to the enforcement of the option agreement. View "AEP Industries, Inc. v. B.G. Properties, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The issue in this case was created by a 2016 amendment of the look-back period in Ky. Rev. Stat. 189A.010, Kentucky’s principal driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) statute. The amendment increased the look-back period from five years to ten years. In separate prosecutions, Defendants were charged with DUI, fourth offense, for offenses that occurred after the newly-amended version of section 189A.010 became effective. Both defendants had prior convictions for DUI offenses beyond the five-year look-back period of the former law but within the ten-year look-back period of the current law. The circuit court concluded that the convictions exceeding the former five-year look-back period could not be used to elevate the current DUI charges to DUI, fourth offense because doing so would violate contractual rights established in Defendants’ plea agreements. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred by excluding Defendants’ 2009 and 2011 offenses from use as enhancing prior DUI convictions because (1) plea agreement contract principles do not bar application of the new rules; and (2) the alternative grounds relied upon by Defendants for affirming the trial court’s decision were unavailing. View "Commonwealth v. Jackson" on Justia Law

by
When Plaintiff learned that a family occupying a residence nearby to a vacant property owned by Plaintiff was pursuing environmental claims against him, he notified his liability carrier, the Indiana Insurance Company. Indiana Insurance provided a defense and eventually settled the claims. Plaintiff later sued Indiana Insurance for bad faith arising from a breach of his insurance contract. The jury awarded Plaintiff $925,000 in emotional distress damages and $2,500,000 in punitive damages. The court of appeals affirmed. On appeal, Indiana Insurance argued that, having provided a defense and indemnification, Plaintiff had no viable bad faith claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Plaintiff presented sufficient evidence to support the jury’s determination that Indiana Insurance breached its contract with Plaintiff and that Indiana Insurance’s acts or omissions violated the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act; (2) the trial court did not err in denying Indiana Insurance’s motion for directed verdict or judgment notwithstanding the verdict on Plaintiff’s Kentucky Consumer Protection Act claim; (3) expert testimony is unnecessary to substantiate damages for emotional distress in a bad faith case; and (4) Indiana Insurance’s two remaining allegations of error were not properly before the court for review. View "Indiana Insurance Co. v. Demetre" on Justia Law