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Articles Tagged with law

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How much do you know about your insurance coverage? For instance, if you have two cars insured under separate uninsured/underinsured motorist policies, do you assume that you are covered under both policies for an accident in either vehicle? Or do you know that there may be an insurance exclusion that applies?

This issue was the subject of a recent Kentucky Supreme Court case in which the justices strongly disagreed about whether an “average American” could understand certain exclusions in two insurance policies issued to a man who was later hurt by an underinsured driver.

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Risperdal drug injuryEarlier this month, a jury in Pennsylvania delivered the largest verdict yet against the maker of Risperdal, an antipsychotic medication. A jury awarded a family $70 million as compensation for devastating drug side effects suffered by their son. According to media reports, this is the fifth such lawsuit in Philadelphia, but by far the largest verdict, against Janssen, the manufacturer of Risperdal.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit, a boy who lived in Tennessee, grew large breasts as a result of taking the drug. The condition he suffered from is called gynecomastia, which is a known possible side effect of Risperdal. In marketing the drug and in Janssen’s defense in court, the manufacturer downplayed this side effect – but as this family can tell you, it is an incredibly difficult ordeal for those who develop it.

Risperdal is used in some patients to treat psychiatric disorders. In 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it for use for those who suffered from schizophrenia. In 2003, the FDA approved Risperdal for treatment of manic episodes of bipolar disorder. Since those are limited uses confined to small populations, the company began seeking more ways to market the drug.

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Where do you file a product liability lawsuit?

Most of the time, the answer is simple. You file it where the actionable issue occurred. If you live in Kentucky and that’s where the accident happened, it’s easy to determine you file your lawsuit in Kentucky.

Sometimes, there are multiple possibilities for where to file a suit. If the opposing party doesn’t like the plaintiff’s choice of court, the opposing party can ask for a dismissal of the case or, in some situations, a transfer. If the plaintiff disagrees with the trial court’s order regarding jurisdiction or choice of forum, the plaintiff can file an appeal.

Once the proper court has been decided, another possible issue is that of choice of law. Typically, this question arises when an issue could possibly be resolved according to the law of two or more states. However, sometimes, the choice of law question involves the law of differing nations.

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A negligence case has four components:  duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. Sometimes, a particular situation – such as a slip and fall injury, an act of medical malpractice, or a defective product – turns a simple negligence case into a more complex inquiry.Sometimes, however, the opposite is true. A recent case from the Kentucky Court of Appeals illustrates this point.

Facts of the Case

In Campbell v. Pro Video Audio Productions, Inc., the plaintiff was working as a professional stagehand at a concert in Louisville in 2012 when his foot became entangled in a tarp placed on the stage. He fell approximately seven feet, hurting his arm, leg, face, and hand. He sued the defendant, who was in the business of providing stage construction and sound system services, alleging that it had created an unreasonably dangerous condition by failing to place handrails around the stage.

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By Kyle Roby, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

Car accidents, truck wrecks, and other motor vehicle crashes fall under the general law of negligence. In order to prove a negligence case, a plaintiff has to prove four separate elements:  duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. Each element must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, which is when the jury finds that the plaintiff’s version of the facts is more likely true than not. It does not require the injured person to prove beyond a reasonable doubt these elements, as in the criminal justice system, but rather only that it is more likely than not that there was a breach in a duty owed to the injured person that caused damages.

Once the plaintiff has presented his or her case at trial, and the judge has determined that he or she has made a prima facie case of negligence, the defendant has the right to offer evidence that contradicts the plaintiff’s version of the facts or impeaches the plaintiff’s testimony. The jury is the ultimate trier of fact, taxed with the duty of deciding which witness to believe when the testimony is conflicting.

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Workers’ compensation was designed as a compromise. An injured worker does not have to prove that his or her employer was negligent (as is required in most personal injury cases), but the worker’s monetary recovery is typically less than it would be in a negligence case. Whether or not this is a fair trade-off is a controversial subject.

The good news for an injured worker is that he or she can receive medical care and payment of temporary and, if applicable, permanent disability benefits, even if he or she cannot show that the employer did anything to cause the injury complained of. The bad news is that, even if the employer was at fault, the payout to the worker remains the same, with no compensation for pain and suffering or loss of consortium to the injured person’s spouse.

Sometimes, the parties disagree as to whether an injury was sustained during the course and scope of employment. For instance, an employee may be away from the business premises at the time of an accident (such as a car crash) but still arguably engaged in work for the employer.

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Regardless of the merits of a party’s complaint, it will never be heard unless the courts find that it was timely filed. Failure to comply with the statute of limitations isn’t just a small “technicality.” It is a deal breaker when it comes to negligence litigation. A recent underinsured motorist claim case in Kentucky highlighted the importance of hitting deadlines.

It can also be a mistake to file suit on the eve of the running of the statute of limitations. As the plaintiff in the case set out below discovered, waiting until shortly before the expiration of the limitations period can be very costly.

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By Kyle Roby, attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

Even car accident cases that seem simple in the beginning can grow complicated very quickly. In a recent Kentucky fatal car accident case, who was driving the car at the time of the accident was the legal question. The alleged operator of a car involved in a fatal collision accused his passenger of being behind the wheel, even after the operator had pled guilty to manslaughter in criminal court.

It was up to the trial court – and the court of appeals, on review – to decide whether the issue was to be resolved by judicial admission or by the jury at trial.

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By Kyle Roby, Attorney and Partner
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

It often comes as a surprise to those injured in car accidents that dealing with one’s own insurance company can be just as vexing and contentious as dealing with the insurance company of the driver whose negligence or recklessness caused the accident.

Fortunately, the law does provide some protection for insureds who have to fight with their own insurance company to get that to which they are contractually entitled. However, the threshold for success in such cases is high, and not every case results in a judgment in the insured’s favor.

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By Kyle Roby, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

Although the basic law of negligence is the same across the country – namely, that to be successful, the plaintiff must show duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages – there are some nuances of negligence law that are different in various states. Thus, the outcome of a particular case can vary considerably, depending upon the state in which the accident occurred.

For instance, under the law of comparative fault, there can be wide variations in the outcome of a suit based on similar circumstances, depending upon the state where the suit is filed. The state of Tennessee follows what is called the “modified system of comparative fault.”

Beginning with the 1992 case of McIntyre v. Balentine, a plaintiff may recover damages in proportion to a defendant’s percentage of fault in an accident, as long as the defendant’s fault outweighed any fault by the plaintiff. In cases in which the jury finds the parties to be equally at fault (or finds the plaintiff to be more than 50 percent at fault), the plaintiff recovers nothing.

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