The Shelton Law Group recently settled a claim it brought in the Kentucky Board of Claims for an Estill County man who was severely injured when he lost control of his motor vehicle after driving into a sunken pavement on a state road in Estill County. Shelton Law Group filed a claim with the Kentucky Board of Claims because the Defendant Kentucky Department of Transportation (“KDOT”) has sovereign immunity from suits filed against it in Kentucky courts.
In its claim, the Shelton Law Group alleged that certain KDOT employers and managers negligently failed to inspect and maintain the section of road where the motor vehicle accident occurred. The KDOT defended on the basis that there was not a substantial defect in the roadway on the day in question and, if there was, it was the Claimant’s excessive speed that caused him to lose control of his vehicle and not the road defect. Alternatively, the KDOT claimed that it did not have adequate advance notice of the defect to enable it to repair the defect prior to the Claimant’s injury.
The negligence claim was assigned to a hearing officer who conducted a full-day hearing in Estill County during which he heard testimony from numerous witnesses, including the Claimant. Ultimately, the hearing officer found in favor of the Claimant and recommended that the Board of Claims require the KDOT to pay the Claimant approximately $144,000 in non-reimbursed medical expenses and lost wages damages. Kentucky law (KRS 44.070) limits awards in the Board of Claims to a maximum of $200,000. No monies may be awarded for permanent injury or pain and suffering. Thereafter, the Board of Claims met and decided not to adopt its hearing officer’s recommendations. Instead, the Board of Claims ruled that there was not enough evidence the KDOT was aware of the defect in question prior to the Claimant’s injury and therefore it was not liable.
The Shelton Law Group then appealed the Board of Claims decision to reject its own hearing officer’s recommendations to the Estill Circuit Court. On appeal, the Shelton Law Group argued that the Board of Claims had arbitrarily disregarded the recommended findings of fact of its hearing officer and that the Board of Claims determination there was insufficient evidence the KDOT knew of the defect in the road prior to Claimant’s injury was not supported by the evidence in the record. The Estill Circuit Court agreed with the Shelton Law Group and sent the case back to the Board of Claims with directions to follow the recommendations of its hearing officer and to ultimately make an award to the Claimant. Shortly after the case was sent back to the Board of Claims, the Shelton Law Group was able to convince the KDOT to settle Claimant’s claims for the reduced amount of approximately $123,000. The full opinion of the Estill Circuit Court is available for viewing at www.robsheltonlaw.com.