Monday, March 8, 2010
A high school English teacher was sitting in her living room when a small plane hit the roof of the second story of her home. She suffered no direct physical injury but went into a state of shock, which led to health problems.
She retained an attorney to file suit against the pilot. The attorney missed the one-year statute of limitations despite reminders and also failed to comply with discovery obligations and court orders. The suit was dismissed. The teacher then sued her attorney for malpractice. A jury returned a verdict in her favor of over $5 million. The lawyer appealed.
The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the jury verdict of malpractice and punitive damages against the attorney. The court vacated some aspects of the damage award. In particular, the teacher's "case-within-a-case" proving negligence on the part of the pilot could not sustain a claim for punitive damages because of Kentucky's "impact" rule. (Mike Frisch)