Law of the case - Post-judgment interest
A medical malpractice judgment for liquidated damages, punitive damages and post-judgment interest at the statutory rate of 12% was reversed, in part, on appeal with respect to the issue of punitive damages. Although the defendant medical center had previously moved to reduce the post-judgment interest rate, the denial of that motion was not part of the first appeal.
When the judgment was amended on remand to satisfy the holding in the first appeal regarding punitive damages, defendant medical center again moved to reduce the post-judgment interest rate, which was again denied. The Court of Appeals held that the law-of-the-case doctrine precluded the consideration of the question in a subsequent appeal.
The law-of-the-case doctrine is “an iron rule, universally recognized, that an opinion or decision of an appellate court in the same cause is the law of the case for a subsequent trial or appeal however erroneous the opinion or decision may have been.". . . It is the mechanism by which matters once litigated and finally determined remain final. Its proper application is a question of law to be reviewed de novo. . . the doctrine perceives as settled “all errors lurking in the record on the first appeal which might have been, but were not expressly relied upon as error.”
The court distinguished this case from the unpublished opinion in Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government v. Brooks, 2013 WL 645955 (2013).
NOTE TO KENTUCKY COURTS: Exclusive WestLaw cites are a big pain in the ass.
In Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government v. Brooks, the interest rate issue had not been raised during any earlier phase of the proceedings. In this case, the issue had been ruled upon previously. I guess that's right. The same case was in the Court of Appeals four times, and it's a little hard to find. Bah!
After holding the rule-of-the-case doctrine precluded the consideration of the interest rate issue, the court considered it and opined/held/strongly suggested a trial court's prerogative to modify post-judgment interest under KRS 360.040 was within the realm of the court's sound discretion, and it was a pretty good enough decision to pass an abuse of discretion test.
Basically, the Court of Appeals said, it's a judgment and not a damn loan to be paid when they get around to it.
"Finally, University Hospital contends that the trial court miscalculated the interest due under the terms of its judgment. It contends that the trial court erroneously computed interest for the day on which the judgment was originally entered rather than concluding that interest began to accrue the following day and that it erroneously awarded additional interest in leap years contrary to the provisions of KRS 360.040. We disagree."
They were arguing about three days' worth of interest, or about $5225, or maybe one lawyer for three days.
The judgment, as amended, was affirmed.