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Wright v. Carroll

Supreme Court of Kentucky

October 23, 2014

REUBEN J. WRIGHT, ET AL., APPELLANTS
v.
KIM CARROLL, APPELLEE

Released for Publication February 19, 2015.

Page 128

ON REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS. CASE NO. 2012-CA-000787-MR. ELLIOTT CIRCUIT COURT NO. 06-CI-00027.

FOR APPELLANTS: Elizabeth Anna Deener, John Gary McNeill, Carson Wood Smith.

FOR APPELLEE: William Horton Wilhoit.

OPINION OF THE COURT BY JUSTICE SCOTT. All sitting. All concur.

OPINION

Page 129

SCOTT, JUSTICE.

I. BACKGROUND

Appellant Reuben Wright was driving a tractor-trailer, owned by Appellant Matthew Keeton Trucking, in the southbound lane of a two-lane road when he approached a blind curve that is closely followed by an intersection. On Wright's side of the road, there was a road sign located in the curve warning of the upcoming intersection. Wright drove this route regularly and was aware of the intersection. Nevertheless, Wright testified that he did not expect any vehicles to be stopped at the intersection when he entered the curve.

However, as Wright rounded the curve, he saw multiple vehicles stopped in his lane waiting to turn left. Wright slammed on his brakes and steered to the right into a ditch to avoid rear-ending the stopped vehicles. His brakes locked, leaving one-hundred feet of skid marks. Although Wright successfully avoided colliding with the vehicles stopped in the southbound lane, his trailer swung into the northbound lane, where it struck Appellee Kim Carroll's vehicle. Carroll sustained serious injuries to her legs from the collision. It is undisputed that Carroll was not operating her vehicle negligently when the collision occurred.

Carroll filed suit in Elliott Circuit Court against Wright and Matthew Keeton Trucking[1] alleging that negligent maintenance and operation of the tractor-trailer proximately caused the accident and the resultant injuries. Two jury trials eventually ensued from the personal injury action. In the first trial, the jury was instructed on the " sudden emergency" doctrine and returned a verdict in favor of Wright. On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the sudden emergency doctrine was inapplicable because the vehicles properly stopped to turn at the intersection did not constitute an " emergency" that Wright could not have anticipated. Carroll v. Wright, 2009 WL 414064 (Ky. App. 2009) (" Carroll I " ). As a result, it reversed and remanded the case back to the circuit court for retrial.

On remand, Wright argued that the accident was created by an " unforeseen circumstance" and that he did the best he could to avoid causing an accident. The

Page 130

second jury was not instructed on the sudden emergency doctrine, and, contrary to the first trial, it was also not instructed that Wright had a duty to stay in the right lane. The jury again returned a verdict in favor of Wright. Carroll appealed and the Court of Appeals held that the trial court should have granted her motion for directed verdict in the second trial and ordered the case to be retried only on the issue of damages. Carroll v. Wright, 2012-CA-000787-MR (Ky. App. 2013) (" Carroll II " ).

Wright filed a motion for discretionary review, which this Court granted. He argues that the Court of Appeals erred by (1) violating the law-of-the-case doctrine, (2) applying an improper standard of review and misstating material facts, and (3) misconstruing KRS ...


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