Lexington Team Secures Precedent Setting Win in Kentucky Supreme Court

Lexington, Ky. (June 29, 2022) - Lexington and Cincinnati Managing Partner Judd Uhl and Partner Craig M. Schneider recently secured a significant victory on behalf of Lewis Brisbois’ car dealer client when the Supreme Court of Kentucky unanimously affirmed the dismissal of a complaint against the client in a published opinion that will become controlling law in the Bluegrass State.

In the underlying matter, the driver and passenger in a car died as a result of an auto accident that was indisputably the fault of the driver. The estate of the deceased passenger subsequently sued several parties, and an issue arose as to who owned the car. The trial court determined that the driver owned the car and granted summary judgment as a matter of law. Although the appeals court reversed the lower court’s decision, the Kentucky Supreme Court reinstated the trial court’s summary judgment decision.

The trial court then permitted the plaintiff to amend the complaint to assert a claim against Lewis Brisbois’ car dealer client, who was not a party to the previous litigation. The plaintiff alleged that the car dealer was the statutory owner of the car at issue. The trial court granted the dealer’s motion to dismiss, and the appeals court affirmed based upon the doctrine of law of the case. The plaintiff then appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court, contending that the appeals court erred in applying the law of the case doctrine because the parties and legal issues were different in the litigation involving Lewis Brisbois’ client. Specifically, the plaintiff argued that Lewis Brisbois’ client was a new party and that the ownership of the subject car had yet to be decided.

Upon reviewing the matter for a second time, the Kentucky Supreme Court held that the trial court in the first litigation had, in fact, determined that the driver of the car was its owner – a decision with which the Kentucky Supreme Court agreed and later reinstated. Kentucky’s highest court further explained that there was no change in the law following the prior litigation and that the trial court erred in allowing the plaintiff to amend the complaint because “there can only be one statutory owner and that was decided.” Accordingly, the Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed the appellate court’s decision to dismiss the complaint against Lewis Brisbois’ client. In doing so, it noted that the plaintiff “cites no compelling authority for his position that this Court should not apply the doctrine of law of the case.”

Mr. Schneider handled the briefing and oral argument before the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Mr. Uhl specializes in the defense of catastrophic injury and death claims and has obtained successful verdicts all over the United States. A member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) and the Association of Defense Trial Attorneys (ADTA), he has obtained successful results in dozens of cases including those involving wrongful death, product liability, premises liability, trucking, bad faith, long-term care, and malpractice.

Mr. Schneider is a member of Lewis Brisbois’ General Liability and Insurance Law Practices. He has been practicing law for more than a decade, including at the trial and appellate levels, in counties throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the State of Ohio. He has also appeared before the Supreme Court of Kentucky and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Read the full Kentucky Supreme Court opinion here.

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