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Hicks v. Young

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

January 25, 2019

GREG HICKS, SR; ESTATE OF MARK WHITE; DAN O'DEA; AND PAT JOHNSON APPELLANTS
v.
GEORGE YOUNG AND ESTATE OF DARLENE YOUNG APPELLEES

          APPEAL FROM JEFFERSON CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE BARRY WILLETT, JUDGE ACTION NO. 13-CI-005945

          BRIEFS FOR APPELLANTS: B. Frank Radmacher III Louisville, Kentucky

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEES: Hans G. Poppe Scarlette Burton Kelty Louisville, Kentucky Sam Aguiar Louisville, Kentucky

          BEFORE: DIXON, D. LAMBERT, [1] AND J. LAMBERT, JUDGES.

          OPINION

          J. LAMBERT, JUDGE.

         This is an interlocutory appeal by several defendants seeking our review of the portion of the Jefferson Circuit Court's May 16, 2017, order denying their motion for summary judgment after finding there existed genuine issues of material fact as to whether they were entitled to qualified official immunity. We affirm.

         Because we hold that the circuit court properly denied the motion for summary judgment as to the appellants in this case and because the court's order contains an excellent recitation of the factual background and analysis of the legal issues, we shall adopt the following relevant portions as our own.[2]

This case is before the Court on a motion for summary judgment filed on behalf of Defendants Vanessa Burns, Greg Hicks, Dan O'Dea, Patrick Johnson, and the Estate of Mark White. The Court took the motion under submission on April 26, 2017. Both Defendants and Plaintiff George Young, who is a party to this litigation both in his individual capacity and in his capacity as the administrator of the Estate of Darlene Young, have filed written briefs in support of their respective positions on the issues raised by the motion.
Factual Background
On September 27, 2013, Juan Perez Gonzalez was driving down Seventeenth Street in Louisville, Kentucky when his vehicle proceeded into the intersection with Muhammad Ali Boulevard and collided with a vehicle driven by George and Darlene Young. The collision caused both of the Youngs to sustain serious physical injuries. None of the parties to this litigation dispute that Mr. Gonzalez was at fault in causing the collision, although there is no direct evidence to explain why he drove into the intersection. The Youngs have already settled their personal injury claims against Mr. Gonzalez, who is not a party to this action and is now incarcerated in federal custody on unrelated charges.
On the theory that overgrown trees had obstructed Mr. Gonzalez's view of a stop sign located at the corner of Seventeenth Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard, the Youngs initially filed this action on November 13, 2013 against the Portland Shawnee Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses (the "Portland Congregation"), the owner of the property adjacent to the intersection. The Youngs asserted negligence claims against the Portland Congregation for failing to maintain its premises in a safe and reasonable manner and in failing to warn them about hazardous conditions on its premises. On June 24, 2014, the Youngs amended their complaint with leave of the Court to assert claims against Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government ("Louisville Metro"), Louisville Metro's Department of Public Works and Assets ("Public Works"), and several Louisville Metro employees in their individual and official capacities. In their amended complaint, the Youngs allege that Louisville Metro, Public Works, and the Louisville Metro employees were negligent in failing to maintain the trees and signage at the intersection in a safe and reasonable manner, in failing to warn them about the hazardous conditions at the intersection created by overgrown trees blocking the view of the stop sign from Seventeenth Street, and in failing to supervise and train employees and other agents on how to identify, report, and counteract hazardous roadway conditions "to ensure compliance with Kentucky Law, local ordinances, guidelines and/or other requirements." The Youngs seek to recover damages for past and future pain and suffering, lost wages, permanent impairment of Ms. Young's ability to work and earn money, past and future medical expenses, and attorney's fees.
In an agreed order entered on July 20, 2015, the Court dismissed all of the Youngs' claims against Louisville Metro, Public Works, and the Louisville Metro employees in their official capacities. On January 27, 2016, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the Portland Congregation on the grounds that it had no duty to prevent the trees, which a survey showed were in the public right-of-way, from obscuring the view of the stop sign at the intersection of Seventeenth Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard. After those two orders, the Youngs' only remaining claims are those against the Louisville Metro employees in their individual capacities. Those individuals include . . . Greg Hicks, Dan O'Dea, Mark White, and Patrick Johnson (collectively, "Defendants"). Mark White unfortunately passed away while this case has been pending before the Court, and his estate is now a party to this litigation. Ms. Young has also unfortunately passed away, and Mr. Young now serves as the administrator of her estate, which has been made a party to this litigation.
On March 15, 2017, Defendants moved for summary judgment on the grounds that they are entitled to qualified official immunity. Mr. Young responded on April 4, 201[7], arguing that the doctrine of qualified immunity does not protect Defendants because they either were negligent in the performance of their ministerial duties or acted in bad faith while conducting their discretionary functions. Defendants replied to Mr. Young's response on April 19, 2017, reiterating its position that they are entitled to qualified official immunity.
Issues of Law
The sole issue for the Court to decide is whether Defendants have met their burden of demonstrating that they are entitled to summary judgment on the ...

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