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Walter L. Sales

Member, Louisville

As SKO’s General Counsel, Walter represents the firm in dealing with its insurance carriers and its risk management, including dealing with conflicts and ethical issues affecting the practice of law. Walter still maintains an active private practice dealing with a variety of litigation issues.

Walter began his practice as a labor and employment attorney more than 40 years ago. He has represented employers in over 50 union organizing drives and in countless cases before state and federal agencies regulating employment. Walter has represented employers in jury trials involving sexual harassment claims, and age, race and sex discrimination claims in federal and state courts throughout the nation. Over his career Walter expanded his practice to become an accomplished appellate and jury trial lawyer, with cases regarding commercial litigation, copyright infringement, insurance rehabilitation, public utility regulation, commercial and business tort matters, election cases and cases dealing with the First and Fifth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Education
University of Kentucky College of Law
1973, J.D.
Washington and Lee University
1970, B.A.
Admissions
Kentucky Court of Appeals
Kentucky Supreme Court
U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit
U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky
U.S. District Court, Western District of Kentucky
United States Supreme Court

Recognition

  • Benchmark Litigation, Local Litigation Star, Appellate; General Commercial, 2014-2017
  • Benchmark Appellate, Local Litigation Star, Labor, Employment & Employee Benefits; Business Torts, 2013
  • Listed in Best Lawyers in America©, Employment Law-Management, Labor Law-Management
  • AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell®
  • Chambers USA, Leading Lawyer for Business, Labor & Employment, 2014-2017
  • Louisville Magazine Top Lawyer, Appellate Law, 2012-2014
  • Kentucky Super Lawyer, Employment & Labor
  • Listed in Who's Who Legal: USA, Management Labor & Employment
  • Mr. Sales has tried over 20 cases to jury verdict in a variety of cases, mostly in the labor and employment field.
  • Mr. Sales has argued over 60 appeals to federal and state appellate courts.
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Affiliations

  • American Bar Association, member
  • Kentucky Bar Association, member
  • Louisville Bar Association, member
  • Jewish Community Center of Louisville, Board of Directors, 2004-2009
  • The Temple, director, 2000-2005
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Meet Walter

My Focus

Because of the precipitous decline in the penetration of labor unions in the private sector work force, few younger lawyers have an opportunity to do traditional labor work before the National Labor Relations Board. Accordingly, I am the lawyer at SKO with the most experience in resisting union organizing drives.

 

Most recently, I successfully represented the employer performing the drywall installation on Louisville’s Omni Hotel project in resisting an organizing drive by the Carpenters Union.

 

Other highlights from my career include the following:

  • A patient at Ten Broeck Psychiatric hospital claimed she was raped by an employee of the hospital. After a $2.2million award of damages against the Hospital for negligent hiring and retention and general negligence was upheld on appeal to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, SKO represented the hospital in seeking discretionary review at the Kentucky Supreme Court. Following briefs and oral argument, the $2.2 million judgment was vacated. The Supreme Court held that the lower court had erred in instructing the jury on negligence and should have instructed the jury solely on negligent retention, and also when it prohibited the employer from introducing evidence under the “rape- shield” law of the proclivity of the plaintiff for consensual sex.

 

  • An employee of Aker Plant Solutions taped a meeting with his supervisor who participated in the decision to lay off the employee, rather than a younger co-worker. The supervisor told the employee that a substantial reason for his layoff was the company’s need to retain younger workers. With that direct evidence the employee sued in U.S. District Court claiming age discrimination. After settlement efforts failed, SKO represented the employer in a four-day jury trial in U.S. District Court where the plaintiff contended that he was entitled to $1.4 million. The jury returned a verdict for the employer, believing that the employer’s real reason for selecting the plaintiff for layoff was that the retained younger worker performed the job better than the plaintiff, and that the supervisor lied to the plaintiff to spare telling him that he was laid off for performance reasons. 2014

 

  • At its 2013 annual meeting the St. Joseph Children’s Home, Inc. removed its board and replaced them with different board members. The former board sued in Circuit Court contending that the bylaws required notice of the challenge to be made prior to the annual meeting. SKO represented St. Joseph’s and its new board, and sought dismissal of the case on the grounds that the Court had no jurisdiction under the ecclesiastical exemption doctrine, fashioned by the U.S. Supreme Court to protect religious institutions from government interference with their First Amendment rights. The Circuit Court rejected the motion and SKO sought a writ of mandamus from the Court of Appeals to compel the Circuit Court to dismiss the case. The Court of Appeals dismissed the writ and an appeal was taken to the Kentucky Supreme Court. The Circuit Court proceedings continued, and after a three-day trial, dismissed the case filed by the former board because since the original annual meeting another meeting of the members took place, ratifying the previous vote for the new board. Before the plaintiffs could appeal, the Kentucky Supreme Court rendered its decision holding that the Circuit Court should have dismissed the case under the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine.

 

  • In 2004 Rehabilitator of AIK Comp, a group self-insured workers compensation carrier, asked SKO to represent it in recovering over $90 million from former members, excess insurance carriers, accountants and actuaries. I led the legal team in litigating many complex issues to obtain a judgment against former members for $90 million. On the eve of trial the court ordered mediation. With the concurrence of the Director of the Insurance Department and its General Counsel, the SKO team refused to participate in the mediation because they were busy preparing for a trial slated scheduled two days later should the mediation be unsuccessful. Instead, three other SKO attorneys joined the Insurance Department General Counsel to negotiate a settlement. Though a settlement was reached most intervenors, one significant group held out and, after a trial, the Circuit Court entered a judgment for the Rehabilitator of AIK Comp for $90 million which was affirmed on appeal. Though an eight-week trial against the accounting firm for fraud and malpractice was lost, a significant barrier to the power of a rehabilitator was established. The Kentucky Supreme Court held that rehabilitators and liquidators of insolvent insurers are not bound by agreements to arbitrate entered into by insurance company officers and accounting firms.

 

  • In 2006 the Kentucky General Assembly enacted a biennial budget, which reduced the period of presumed loss or abandonment of travelers’ checks from 15 to seven years, requiring issuers to remit uncashed travelers checks seven years after purchase rather than 15 years. The Kentucky Treasurer, budget director and Attorney General took the position that the legislation was retroactive, applying to all outstanding travelers’ checks. SKO challenged the legality of the legislation on behalf of American Express Company, obtaining an injunction against enforcement of the statute. The case was appealed and dismissed by the Court of Appeals on procedural grounds before the Supreme Court of Kentucky reversed and remanded to the Court of Appeals for a decision on the merits. In the meantime, the Kentucky General Assembly, in 2007 and 2008, amended the statute to correct the original defects. New law suits were brought by the SKO team in U.S. District Court. Initially the Court held the statute unconstitutional on substantive due process grounds. The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded for a ruling on other constitutional issues related to the retroactivity of the statute. The U.S. District Court then held in favor of the Commonwealth holding the statute retroactive and constitutional. On appeal again, however, the Sixth Circuit, avoiding the constitutional issues, held for American Express on its position that the statute was prospective only and applied to travelers’ checks issued on or after the effective date of the last enacted statute.

 

Work Highlights

Civil Rights – Age Discrimination

SKO successfully defended a Fortune 500 company that was being sued in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky by a former employee alleging age discrimination.  The former employee claimed that the company violated the Kentucky Civil Rights Act when it selected him, and not a younger co-worker, for layoff during a company-wide reduction in force.  The plaintiff sought lost wages of more than $100,000, emotional distress damages of $1,300,000, and an award of attorney’s fees.  This case was noteworthy because it included so-called “direct evidence” of age discrimination: an audio recording that plaintiff had secretly made of his conversation with his supervisor, wherein the supervisor could be heard telling the plaintiff that he was being laid off because of his age.

After a four day trial in August 2014, a seven member jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of the company, finding that the company had not engaged in unlawful discrimination.  SKO’s trial team won the case by proving to the jury that the company had a well conceived plan for the reduction in force that was properly implemented, and that the plaintiff’s termination was actually motivated by his job performance, which did not compare favorably with the younger co-worker.  The Company also showed that the supervisor’s recorded statements about age were intended to avoid hurting the plaintiff’s feelings by telling him with the true reason for his layoff.

Insurance Companies Company Rehabilitation: Contested Settlement Agreement

Successful bench trial, resulting in approval of contested $5 million settlement agreement regarding an insurance company rehabilitation.

Kentucky Civil Rights Act & Disability Discrimination

Successfully represented a company and one of its executives against claims by plaintiff for alleged disability discrimination, retaliation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. SKO represented the company during investigations by the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After the EEOC found no wrongdoing, the plaintiff filed claims in the Pulaski Circuit Court. After three years of litigation, we obtained summary judgment dismissing all claims. SKO then successfully represented the company on appeal. The Kentucky Court of Appeals affirmed the Pulaski Circuit Court's order dismissing all claims and denied the Plaintiff's petition for a rehearing.

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