Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

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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

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Petitioners filed a petition in the magistrate court seeking to have Respondent evicted from one of their apartments. The magistrate court dismissed Petitioners’ claim as moot after a hearing. Respondent appealed. Thereafter, Respondent filed a complaint against Petitioners for, inter alia, unpaid wages and wrongful termination. The circuit court entered an order consolidating Respondent’s magistrate court appeal with his circuit court original complaint. Petitioners moved to dismiss three counts of the complaint on the grounds that the issues involved were litigated in the magistrate court proceeding. The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss. Petitioners then brought this writ of prohibition proceeding. The Supreme Court granted the writ as moulded, holding that the circuit court was prohibited from exercising original jurisdiction over the challenged counts in the complaint, as (1) W. Va. R. Civ. P. 42(a) allows consolidation of a magistrate court appeal with an action pending under the original jurisdiction of a circuit court; (2) Respondent’s claims for unpaid wages were not barred by res judicata and collateral estoppel, but those counts may go forward in circuit court as amendments to the magistrate court pleadings; and (3) Plaintiff’s wrongful discharge claim was a new cause of action not embraced by the magistrate cause of action for unpaid wages. View "State ex rel. Veard v. Hon. Lawrance S. Miller" on Justia Law

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The decedent in this case executed two wills, the first in West Virginia in 2012 and the second in New York in 2014. The named executor of the West Virginia will (Plaintiff) filed a complaint in a West Virginia circuit court challenging the validity of the New York will. The executrix of the New York will (Defendant) moved to dismiss the complaint on jurisdictional grounds. Specifically, Defendant argued that the West Virginia Court lacked jurisdiction because a New York probate court had already decided the New York will was valid. The circuit court granted the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the final order from the New York court did not foreclose further inquiry into the decedent’s will by a West Virginia court; (2) Defendant’s contention that Plaintiff’s only avenue to challenge the probate of the New York will in West Virginia was before the county commission was unavailing; and (3) Plaintiff pled sufficient facts to demonstrate that the probate of the New York will was improper. View "Mason v. Torrellas" on Justia Law

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In 2001, the decedent presented to the Wetzel County Hospital Emergency Room in New Martinsville and came under the care of Dr. Murthy, a surgeon; she slipped into shock and died the next day. Her estate filed a medical negligence action, alleging that Murthy failed to perform exploratory surgery to identify, diagnose and correct the decedent’s “intraabdominal condition.” A jury awarded $4,000,000 in compensatory damages. After the trial, the circuit court allowed amendment of the complaint to add Murthy’s insurance carrier, Woodbrook, alleging that Woodbrook made all relevant decisions for Murthy’s defense and acted vexatiously and in bad faith. Following a remand, Murthy paid a reduced judgment, plus interest, in the total amount of $1,162,741.60 and filed motions in limine to preclude certain matters from consideration on the issue of attorney fees and costs, including an unrelated case that resulted in a $5,764,214.75 verdict against Dr. Murthy in March 2007. The court dismissed Woodbrook as a party-defendant and awarded the estate attorney fees and costs. The precise calculation was to be later determined. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia reversed, concluding that the lower court’s reliance on certain conduct by Murthy did not justify the award. View "Murthy v. Karpacs-Brown" on Justia Law