Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court

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An administrative law judge (ALJ) awarded Brandon Fleming partial disability benefits based on a finding that Fleming had a combined permanent impairment rating of seventeen percent. In 2010, Fleming moved to reopen his claim, alleging that his condition had worsened. A different ALJ found that Fleming had a combined permanent impairment rating of thirty-two percent. The Workers’ Compensation Board and court of appeals affirmed. LKLP CAC Inc. appealed, arguing that the ALJ’s opinion was not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ relied on a physician who stated that Fleming’s permanent impairment rating had not changed following the 2010 opinion and award. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no abuse of discretion in the ALJ’s finding that Fleming had an increase in his permanent impairment rating, in his impairment, and in his disability. View "LKLP CAC Inc. v. Fleming" on Justia Law

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Louisville Gas and Electric Company (LG&E) sought a permit authorizing it to discharge certain pollutants into the Ohio River in conjunction with the operation of its recently expended generating facility. The Commonwealth of Kentucky, Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division of Water issued the permit. The circuit court vacated the permit. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated LG&E’s permit, holding (1) in vacating the permit, the circuit court and Court of Appeals misapplied controlling federal law; and (2) the Cabinet’s determination that the LG&E permit should proceed under 40 C.F.R. 125.3(c)(1) was a reasonable interpretation of the regulation. View "Louisville Gas & Electric Co. v. Kentucky Waterways Alliance" on Justia Law

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Marshall Parker sought an award of benefits for a back injury he received during the course of his employment with Webster County Coal. An administrative law judge (ALJ) awarded benefits for the back injury. However, the ALJ found that, pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.730(4), Webster County Coal did not have liability for payment of income benefits in addition to the two years of temporary total disability income benefits Parker had already received. The Workers’ Compensation Board and Court of Appeals affirmed. Parker appealed, arguing that section 342.730(4) is unconstitutional because, under the statute, injured older workers who qualify for normal old-age Social Security retirement benefits are treated differently from injured older workers who do not qualify. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that section 342.730(4) is constitutionally infirm on equal protection grounds because there is no rational basis or substantial and justifiable reason for the disparate treatment of two groups of workers. View "Parker v. Webster County Coal, LLC" on Justia Law

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Ray Ballou worked as an underground coal miner from 1982 until 2012 and was sixty-nine years old when last exposed to coal dust. An administrative law judge (ALJ) awarded Ballou retraining incentive benefits (RIB), finding that Ballou had category 1/1 coal workers’ pneumoconiosis. Due to Ballou’s advanced age, however, the ALJ determined that Ballou could only receive those benefits if he participated in an approved retraining or educational program. Ballou challenged the constitutionality of the RIB statute’s age classifications. The court of appeals concluded that those age classifications are constitutional. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the age classifications at issue did not violate Balou’s right to equal protection. View "Ballou v. Enterprise Mining Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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Margie Mullins sustained a workplace injury during the course of her employment with Leggett and Platt. Mullins settled her workers’ compensation claim after negotiating with Leggett & Platt’s insurance carrier, CCMSI. The Chief Administrative Law Judge (CALJ) approved the award, which included weekly permanent-partial disability benefits, and Mullins’s election to accelerate the payment of her attorney’s fee to a lump-sum amount. This payment reduced Mullins’s weekly benefit amount pro-rata. But, in calculating Mullins’s weekly benefits remaining after deduction of the attorney’s fee, CCMSI applied a multiplier reflecting the future periodic payment of the attorney’s fee commuted to a present value. Mullins filed a motion for determination, disputing CCMSI’s calculation. The CALJ denied the motion, concluding that the statutory text and accompanying administrative regulations supported CCMSI’s calculation. The Workers’ Compensation Board and the Court of Appeals upheld the CALJ’s ruling. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Mullins failed to establish that CCMSI acted contrary to law or failed to correctly reduce her weekly benefits. View "Mullins v. Leggett & Platt" on Justia Law

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In 1993, Appellant was convicted in a state court of multiple crimes and sentenced to a total of forty-two years’ imprisonment. In 1994, a federal district court sentenced Appellant to 152 months’ incarceration for separate crimes. At the time of Appellant’s federal sentencing, he was in the custody of the Kentucky Department of Corrections (DOC). The Federal Bureau of Prisons issued a detainer in order to obtain custody upon Appellant’s release from state custody. In 2001, the Kentucky Parole Board (KPB) paroled Appellant to his federal detainer, after which Appellant was transferred from state custody to federal custody. In 2012, Appellant was released from federal supervision. In 2013, after obtaining new criminal charges, the KPB revoked Appellant’s parole. In 2015, Appellant, then a prisoner at the Northpoint Training Center, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, arguing that the DOC permanently surrendered jurisdiction over his sentence when it transferred custody to federal authorities. The circuit court denied Appellant’s petition. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, in accordance with Commonwealth v. Hale, the DOC did not forfeit its right to require Appellant to satisfy the remainder of his sentence upon his return to the Commonwealth. View "Murrell v. Bottom" on Justia Law

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Kara Sidebottom was injured during the course of her employment. Sidebottom filed a workers’ compensation claim in connection with the work-related injury. In determining Sidebottom’s weekly compensation benefit, the administrative law judge (ALJ) applied Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.140(1)(d). The ALJ determined that Sidebottom was a variable wage employee working on a “wage plus tips” arrangement at the time of her injury. The Uninsured Employers’ Fund appealed, arguing that, at the time of her injury, Sidebottom was a salaried, or fixed wage, employee whose average weekly wage should have been determined in accordance with Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.140(1)(a). The Workers’ Compensation Board disagreed and affirmed the ALJ’s decision. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the ALJ, and hence the Board, applied the correct statute to the facts in determining Sidebottom’s average weekly wage. Remanded. View "Commonwealth, Uninsured Employers’ Fund v. Sidebottom" on Justia Law

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Mary Smith was discharged from her employment with the Estill County Fiscal Court after complaining about working conditions. The Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission found that the Fiscal Court’s discharge of Smith was a violation of Ky. Rev. Stat. 338.121(3)(a) because her letter constituted an occupational health “complaint.” The circuit court affirmed. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the Commission exceeded its statutory authority by interpreting what action constitutes a “complaint” under the Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Act (KOSHA) because only the Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Board, the quasi-legislative body under KOSHA, could interpret the meaning of undefined terms. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and reinstated the final order of the Commission, holding that the Commission reasonably interpreted the word “complaint,” and that interpretation was in accord with the purpose of KOSHA. View "Kentucky Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission v. Estill County Fiscal Court" on Justia Law

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Eddie Ray Thomas, Jr. died from a heart attack while attempting to tow a truck from a roadside culvert. Eddie’s estate filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. During the proceedings, the estate offered various testimony supporting the estate’s claim that Eddie’s heart attack was work-related, thus meeting its burden of proving that Eddie’s death was work-related without the presumption provided by Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.680. Eddie’s employer attempted to rebut the statutory presumption with testimony by Dr. Roseman. An administrative law judge (ALJ) determined that Eddie’s death was not work-related, finding that Eddie suffered from pre-existing and active ischemic heart disease and that any anxiety Eddie suffered at the time of his death was not work-related. The Workers’ Compensation Board affirmed. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the matter to the ALJ with instructions to award benefits. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Dr. Roseman’s opinion was not evidence of substance, and therefore, the presumption stood and the ALJ was required to award benefits. View "Eddie’s Service Center v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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Charles Wimberly filed an application for disability retirement benefits with the Kentucky Retirement Systems (KERS). A hearing officer recommended that Wimberly's application be denied and, before KERS could render a final decision, Wimberly filed a second application pursuant to Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 61.600(2). Following the recommendation of another hearing officer, KERS denied that application. Wimberly sought judicial review; the circuit court reversed KERS. KERS appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the circuit court. The Supreme Court granted discretionary review to address the parties' arguments regarding the application of the doctrine of res judicata and to determine whether the consumption of alcohol was or could be a pre-existing condition. Having reviewed the record and the arguments of the parties, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Kentucky Retirement Systems v. Wimberly" on Justia Law