REVIEW FROM COURT OF APPEALS CASE NOS. 2016-CA-000886-MR AND
2016-CA-001216-MR KNOTT CIRCUIT COURT NO. 93-CI-00232
COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: Darrell Hall
COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: John Kevin West Steptoe & Johnson,
Martin Doyle (Karen) sought, and this Court granted,
discretionary review to determine whether the trial court and
the Court of Appeals erred in failing to award post-judgment
interest pursuant to Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) 360.040.
For the following reasons, we reverse arid remand to the
Knott Family Court for further proceedings.
and James Samuel Doyle (Sam) were divorced by the Knott
Circuit Court on September 24, 1995. The divorce decree
reserved on questions of child custody, support, and division
of property. On March 13, 1998, the court issued a judgment
pertaining to these reserved upon issues, and of particular
relevance to this appeal,  the court ordered Sam to pay Karen $24,
277.02 to equalize the division of marital property. The
judgment was silent as to interest.
not pay the ordered amount to Karen after the court's
judgment was entered. In both 1999 and 2000, Karen had
garnishments issued on Sam's bank accounts in an attempt
to collect the $24, 277.02. The garnishments were returned
and marked "no monies." By 2008, Sam had still not
complied with the 1998 judgment and Karen filed a judgment
lien against property owned by Sam in the amount of $24,
277.02, plus interest at the legal rate from March 12, 1998.
26, 2010, Sam filed a motion to release the judgment lien
and, in 2012, filed a motion to modify the judgment pursuant
to Kentucky Civil Rule (CR) 60.02(f). Both motions were
denied. Sam subsequently filed a motion to prohibit the
collection of interest on September 13, 2012. The court
granted Sam's motion on the grounds that the 1998
judgment was unliquidated and the judgment was silent as to
interest. Karen filed a motion to alter, amend, or vacate
that order, which the trial court denied. Karen appealed,
alleging in relevant part, that the trial court had no
jurisdiction to modify its 1998 judgment to exclude interest
and that the trial court erred in refusing to award her
interest on the judgment.
Court of Appeals held that the circuit court was not
modifying its 1998 judgment, but was rather interpreting the
judgment, and, thus, had the proper jurisdiction to do so.
The Court of Appeals went on to hold that the trial
court's determination that the $24, 277.02 was
unliquidated was in error. The Court held the judgment to be
liquidated arid that interest was not precluded just because
the 1998 judgment was silent as to interest. Nevertheless,
the Court of Appeals also held that the granting of interest
pursuant to KRS 360.040 is within the trial court's
discretion. The Court of Appeals remanded to the circuit
court for a consideration of whether to award interest on the
judgment requiring specific findings of fact to support its
remand, the Knott Circuit Court once again denied any award
of interest. The Court of Appeals affirmed finding no abuse
of discretion in the trial court's findings, specifically
that: (1) awarding Karen interest would result in an amount
twice that of the original judgment; (2) Karen made no
significant attempt to collect the judgment until 2008; (3)
Sam had a good faith belief that he was not obligated to pay
the judgment until all remaining issues regarding the
parties' financial obligations to one another were
resolved, ie., the issue of child support owed; (4)
it was disputed whether Sam attempted to settle all pending
issues between the parties; and (5) Karen had enforceable
judgment liens against Sam's property, making an award of
interest inequitable. We granted discretionary review.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
interpretation of a statute and legal conclusions are a
matter of law, reviewed de novo. Commonwealth v.
Gaitherwright, 70 S.W.3d 411, 413 (Ky. 2002); Nash
v. Campbell County Fiscal Court, 345 S.W.3d 811, 816
(Ky. 2011). A trial court's findings of fact are reviewed
for clear error. (CR) 52.01; Reichle v. Reichle, 719
S.W.2d 442, 444 (Ky. 1986). Application of the law to the
facts will be reviewed de novo. S.B, B. v. J.W.B.,
304 S.W.3d 712, 716 (Ky. App. 2010).
discussing the merits of this appeal, it is important that we
address Sam's argument that Karen is precluded from
appealing the denial of interest due to the law of the case
doctrine. "Under the law-of-the-case doctrine, an
appellate court, on a subsequent appeal, is bound by a prior
decision on a former appeal in the same court." St.
Clair v. Commonwealth, 451 S.W.3d 597, 612 (Ky.
2014)(citing Inman v. Inman, 648 S.W, 2d 847, 849
(Ky. 1982)(internal quotations omitted)).
The law-of-the-case doctrine exists to serve the important
interest litigants have in finality, by guarding against the
endless reopening of already decided questions, and the
equally important interest courts have in judicial economy,
by preventing the drain on judicial resources that would
result if previous decisions were routinely subject to
Id. at 612-13. (internal citations and quotations
Court has held "that a party who is aggrieved by an
adverse appellate determination must appeal at the time the
decision is rendered because an objection on remand is
futile, and an appeal from the implementation of the
appellate decision on remand amounts to an attempt to
relitigate a previously-decided issue." Whittaker v.
Morgan, 52 S.W.3d 567, 569 (Ky. 2001)(citing
Williamson v. Commonwealth, 767 S.W.2d 323, 325 (Ky.
1989)). In the present case, Karen appealed the trial
court's denial of interest to the Court of Appeals, and
in turn, the Court of Appeals addressed the issue on the
first appeal. Doyle v. Doyle, 2012-CA-001989-MR;
2013-CA-000554-MR (Ky. App. November 26, 2014). Specifically,
the Court of Appeals held that an award of interest pursuant
to KRS 360.040 in a dissolution proceeding was within the
trial court's discretion. The court further found the
1998 judgment was a liquidated amount requiring remand for
further consideration arid requiring specific findings to
support the trial court's decision. Karen did not appeal
that decision and the trial court again denied interest, this
time with the Court of Appeals affirming.
Karen failed to appeal the first decision of the Court of
Appeals, that holding would have become the law of the case:
that KRS 360.040 allows the trial court to use discretion in
awarding interest as long as specific findings of fact are
made to justify the denial of interest. However, the doctrine
is inapplicable to the present matter.
State Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the application
of the doctrine of law of the case." Sherley v.
Commonwealth, 889 S.W.2d 794, 797 (Ky. 1994)(citing
King v. West Virginia, 216 U.S. 92 (1910)). The law
of the case doctrine is subject to exceptions. A reviewing
court "may deviate from the doctrine if its previous
decision was clearly erroneous and would work a manifest
injustice." Brown v. Commonwealth, 313 S.W.3d
577, 610 (Ky. 2010)(internal citations and quotations
omitted). Decisions of the Court of Appeals are not binding
on this Court. And because we find that the Court of
Appeals' holding was clearly erroneous, causing a
manifest injustice, the law of the case doctrine does not