Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

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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

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Plaintiffs sued Sugar Rock, seeking a dissolution of partnerships, alleging them to be mining partnerships and attempted to obtain class action status. The circuit court granted plaintiffs partial summary judgment, finding that the partnerships should be dissolved, and appointed a special receiver and a distribution company to achieve that result. The Supreme Court of Appeals reversed, finding genuine issues of material fact and questions of law regarding the type of partnerships involved in the case, the parties who are the partners thereof, whether the partnerships’ property includes leases, and whether the procedural requirements for a decree of dissolution have been satisfied. View "Sugar Rock, Inc. v. Washburn" on Justia Law

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The Kanawha County Commission is a member of the Central West Virginia Regional Airport Authority, which owns and operates Yeager Airport. At the behest of the FAA, they began a project to remove a hill in Charleston's Coal Branch Heights neighborhood. The Commission wanted to acquire the 10-acre “Nutter Farm” to deposit material removed from the hill and purchased a two-thirds interest, paying $58,333.33 for each one-third interest, then filed a condemnation petition against the third owner, Gomez. The court determined that the Commission’s stated purposes were a proper public use and appointed condemnation commissioners, who valued Gomez’s share at $33,335. The court permitted the Commission to deposit $33,335 and granted immediate possession. Following discovery, the court struck the testimony of Gomez’s expert, struck Gomez’s claims, and granted the Commission summary judgment. The Supreme Court of Appeals reversed in part. The court upheld the determination of public use; the holding that any enhancement or depreciation in value caused by the project for which the land was taken must be disregarded in determining market value; and striking Gomez’s expert. The court erred in striking Gomez’s “claims” as a sanction for her failure to appear at her deposition; in taking judicial notice of the commissioners’ report on the value of the land; and in entering summary judgment. Gomez has a right to testify to the value of her interest in the property on the date of the taking by the Commission. View "Gomez v. Kanawha County Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Nicole Scarcelli filed the underlying medical malpractice action against Dr. Rajai Khoury and Khoury Surgical Group, Inc. (collectively, Dr. Khoury) in the Circuit Court of Ohio County, West Virginia. Dr. Khoury filed a motion to dismiss on the basis of forum non conveniens, arguing that the parties would be better served if the action were filed in the State of Ohio, where the cause of action arose and where Scarcelli resides. Scarcelli responded that her choice of forum was entitled to great deference because Dr. Khoury resides in Ohio County and because Ohio County is the principal place of business of Khoury Surgical Group. The circuit court denied Dr. Khoury’s motion to dismiss after considering the factors enumerated in West Virginia’s forum non conveniens statute. Dr. Khoury subsequently filed this proceeding in prohibition challenging the circuit court’s order denying his motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court denied relief, holding that the circuit court did not exceed its authority in allowing Scarcelli’s action to go forward in Ohio County, West Virginia. View "State ex rel. Khoury v. Hon. Cuomo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed the underlying action against American Electric Power Co., Inc., et al. (collectively, AEP) seeking damages for injuries that they incurred as a result of their exposure to coal combustion waste from the Gavin Landfill in Gallipolis, Ohio. AEP, which owns and/or operates the landfill, filed a motion to dismiss based upon forum non conveniens. The circuit court refused AEP’s motion to dismiss, concluding, inter alia, that West Virginia is not such an inconvenient forum so as to require trial of the case elsewhere. AEP requested the Supreme Court to issue a writ of prohibition to prevent enforcement of the circuit court’s order. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court adequately considered and applied the statutory forum non conveniens factors in refusing AEP’s motion to dismiss on such grounds. View "State ex rel. Am. Elec. Power v. Hon. Nibert" on Justia Law