Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

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In this property dispute, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court setting aside the jury’s verdict in favor of Defendants for insufficient evidence and granting Plaintiff a new trial, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion in this case. Plaintiff proved at trial that she had a written easement to cross Defendants’ land. Defendants, however, introduced evidence that Plaintiff had abandoned the written easement through decades of nonuse. During trial, Plaintiff never objected or filed a motion that challenged the sufficiency of Defendants’ evidence. After the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendants and on appeal, Plaintiff filed a motion seeking a new trial, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to support Defendants’ abandonment theory. The circuit court granted the motion and set aside the jury’s verdict for insufficient evidence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because Plaintiff did not file a motion challenging the sufficiency of evidence at trial, before the jury returned a verdict, and because the jury’s verdict had support in the record, the circuit court abused its discretion in setting aside the jury’s verdict and in granting a new trial. View "McInarnay v. Hall" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court dismissing Petitioners’ civil action as a sanction for alleged discovery violations, holding that the circuit court abused its discretion by imposing the sanction of dismissal. Petitioners bought this civil action against Respondent alleging unfair and deceptive acts, breach of express and implied warranties, breach of contract, and other causes of action. Respondent eventually filed a second motion to dismiss the civil action as a sanction for alleged discovery violations. The circuit court identified ten instances of alleged wrongful conduct by Petitioners and granted Respondent’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, even assuming that there was a discovery violation, the circuit court’s imposition of the extreme sanction of dismissal was an abuse of discretion. View "Smith v. Gebhardt" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the circuit court properly granted Shutler Cabinets, Inc.’s motion to quash a subpoena duces tecum seeking all of Shutler’s business records for a one-year period and whether the court properly awarded Shutler attorney fees and costs. Shutler was a nonparty to the litigation in this case, which was filed in Pennsylvania. Plaintiff sought discovery information from Shutler, a West Virginia company that was a nonparty to the litigation in Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the circuit court’s order quashing the subpoena, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that the category of information in the subpoena that sought business records for a one-year period, including that names and addresses of Shutler’s customers, was unduly burdensome; and (2) affirmed the attorney fee award regarding the fees counsel for Shutler incurred in its initial response to the petition for a subpoena duces tecum and reversed the attorney fee award regarding fees counsel for Shutler incurred in connection with Plaintiff’s W.Va. R. Civ. P. 59(e) motion. View "Kahle's Kitchens, Inc. v. Shutler Cabinets, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court issued a writ of prohibition requested by the Fairmont State University Board of Governors (Fairmont State) prohibiting the circuit court from hearing a lawsuit against it and the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC), holding that venue was not proper in the Circuit Court of Marion County. Some faculty members at Fairmont State sued the Board of Governors and the HEPC in Marion County Circuit Court, alleging, among other things, that Fairmont State violated the West Virginia Open Meetings Act and that it did not fully comply with Plaintiffs’ Freedom of Information Act request. Fairmont State and the HEPC filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit based on improper venue, asserting that lawsuits against state agencies must be filed in Kanawha County. The circuit court denied the motions to dismiss. In response, Fairmont State filed this petition for a writ of prohibition. The Supreme court granted the writ, holding that the lawsuit against Fairmont State and the HEPC must be filed in the Circuit Court of Kanawha County. View "State ex rel. Fairmont State University Board of Governors v. Honorable Patrick N. Wilson" on Justia Law

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Two recently enacted statutes relating to damages - W. Va. Code 55-7-29 and 55-7E-3 - are remedial and apply in a trial conducted after the effective date of the statutes when the underlying facts in the case occurred prior to that effective date. After he was discharged from employment, Plaintiff filed a complaint against his former employer under the West Virginia Human Rights Act claiming that he was unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of race, national origin and/or ancestry. Defendant removed the case to federal district court on the basis of diversity. The district court then certified questions to the Supreme Court regarding the two statutes at issue. The Supreme Court answered the two certified questions in the affirmative and dismissed the matter from the docket of the court. View "Martinez v. Asplundh Tree Expert Co." on Justia Law

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Respondents filed an amended complaint joining separate claims of seventy-nine individual plaintiffs, who alleged that they or their family members were injured by exposure to Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) generated at the General James M. Gavin Power Plant and disposed of at the associated Gavin Landfill (collectively, Gavin Landfill). Twelve plaintiffs (the NWDC Plaintiffs) alleged that they suffered injury as a result of take-home exposure to CCR. The Mass Litigation Panel (MLP) denied Petitioners’ motion to dismiss the claims of the NWDC Plaintiffs, concluding that the doctrine of lex loci delicti required the application of Ohio law to the claims of the NWDC Plaintiffs. The court further found that the application of the Ohio Mixed Dust Statute was contrary to the public policy of West Virginia and, applying West Virginia’s public policy exception to the rule of lex loci delicti, declined to apply Ohio law to the NWDC Plaintiffs’ claims. The Supreme Court granted Petitioners’ requested writ of prohibition, holding that the MLP’s application of the public policy exception to the doctrine of lex loci delicti was clearly erroneous in this case, and therefore, under Ohio’s Mixed Dust Statute, Petitioners’ motion to dismiss should have been granted as to the twelve NWDC Plaintiffs. View "State ex rel. American Electric Power Co. v. Hon. Derek C. Swope" on Justia Law

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In a state court proceeding, federal rules of res judicata or claim preclusion dictate the preclusive effect of a federal court judgment on a federal question, but for a federal court judgment applying state law, that state’s rules of res judicata or claim preclusion dictate the preclusive effect of the judgment. In these consolidated appeals, the Supreme Court examined the res judicata effect of a federal court judgment on a state court third-party complaint. The circuit court dismissed the third-party complaint on res judicata grounds. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the third-party complaint was barred by res judicata because both the federal action and state action relied upon the same facts and were virtually identical in terms of time, space and origin. View "Dan Ryan Builders v. Crystal Ridge Development, Inc." on Justia Law

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Respondent hired a law firm to investigate a potential malpractice claim against a nursing home. The law firm made a request to the hospital owned by Petitioner for a copy of Respondent’s medical records. Petitioners sent an invoice to the law firm demanding $4,463.43 plus sales tax and shipping costs for the medical records. The law firm paid the invoice. Troubled by the allegedly excessive amount of the invoice, however, the law firm filed suit against Petitioners in the name of the client. The circuit court found that Respondent could pursue a claim for the allegedly excessive costs of the medical records. The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition to Petitioners and directed the circuit court to dismiss the lawsuit without prejudice, holding that because Respondent did not pay the invoice and suffered no personal loss caused by the allegedly illegal fee, Respondent could not show an injury in fact. Therefore, Respondent did not have standing to pursue the lawsuit. View "State ex rel. Healthport Technologies, LLC v. Honorable James C. Stucky" on Justia Law

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After a hearing, the mental hygiene commissioner found probable cause to believe that Petitioner was mentally ill and a danger to self or to others due to mental illness. The commissioner directed Petitioner’s commitment for examination at a local mental health facility. Petitioner was subsequently involuntarily committed to Highland Hospital for evaluation. Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus, alleging that her mental health commitment was unlawful. The circuit court denied Petitioner a writ of habeas corpus on the basis that her cause was mooted by her release from her involuntary hospitalization. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in ruling that this habeas matter is moot. View "In re Involuntary Hospitalization of T.O." on Justia Law

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In 2013, fourteen plaintiffs, including ten from West Virginia and four from New York, filed products liability and negligence claims agist Pfizer, Inc. regarding their use of the medication, Lipitor, a drug manufactured by Pfizer. An amended complaint was later filed adding twenty-six plaintiffs from Texas. Ultimately, the circuit court granted Pfizer’s motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens and dismissed the non-West Virginia plaintiffs from the underlying civil action. Plaintiffs sought a writ of prohibition to prevent the circuit court from enforcing its order granting Pfizer’s motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that the circuit court acted within its authority in granting the motion to dismiss. View "State ex rel. Almond v. Honorable Rudolph Murensky" on Justia Law