Justia Injury Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the ordered entered by the circuit court granting the motion to dismiss filed by Defendant, the Harrison County Board of Education, and dismissing Plaintiffs' complaint seeking damages for their student's injuries caused by an Assistant Principal's actions and the Board's response thereto, holding that the circuit court erred in part.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court properly dismissed Plaintiffs' claims for negligent hiring and negligent supervision; (2) the circuit court did not err by dismissing a portion Plaintiffs' claim for negligence per se, but the allegations of negligence per se that Petitioners set forth in their third iteration of the claim sufficiently stated a caused of action for negligence to defeat the Board's motion to dismiss; and (3) the circuit court erred in dismissing Plaintiffs' claim for negligent retention because Plaintiffs stated a claim for negligent retention sufficient to survive the Board's motion to dismiss this claim. View "C.C. v. Harrison County Board of Education" on Justia Law

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In these appeals arising from adverse jury verdicts rendered in separate trials following an automobile accident involving Joseph Jenkins and Tessa Jordan, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the circuit court erred in part.The first trial resulted in the jury's calculation of damages sustained by Jenkins and his wife as a result of the accident, which the parties stipulated was caused through the fault of Jordan. The Jenkins also sued Safeco Insurance Company of America and liberty Mutual Insurance Company (collectively, Safeco) for conversion. After a second trial on the Jenkins' claims for compensatory and punitive damages Safeco appealed the jury's determination that the Jenkins were entitled to punitive damages. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the circuit court's order denying the Jordans' motion to set aside the verdict and for a new trial and remanded that case for a new trial, holding that the jury should have been instructed on Jenkins' duty to mitigate the loss of his vehicle; and (2) reversed the court's order denying Safeco's motion to reduce the punitive damages award, holding that remand was necessary to review the punitive damages award for excessiveness. View "Jordan v. Jenkins" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied a writ of prohibition sought by Morgantown Health and Rehabilitation Center, a nursing home, holding that the circuit court erred in applying the statute of limitations contained in the Wrongful Death Act, W. Va. Code 55-7-6, instead of that contained in the Medical Professional Liability Act (MPLA), W. Va. Code 55-7B-4(b).More than one year after Jacqulin Cowell, a resident of Morgantown Health, died, her daughter and administratrix of her estate sued Morgantown Health, alleging that poor care, neglect, and abuse resulted in Cowell's death. Morgantown Health filed a motion, arguing that the one-year statute of limitations in section 55-7B-4(b) had lapsed and, therefore, the complaint was untimely. The circuit court denied the motion to dismiss, concluding that the statute of limitations in the Wrongful Death Act, rather than that contained in the MPLA, applied. Morgantown Health requested a writ of prohibition. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that the circuit court did not clearly err in applying the Wrongful Death Act's statute of limitations to Plaintiff's wrongful death claim. View "State ex rel. Morgantown Operating Co. LLC v. Gaujot" on Justia Law

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In this premises liability case, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff's complaint, holding that the circuit court plainly erred in making factual determinations based upon assertions in Defendant's motion to dismiss.Plaintiff asserted that, during a visit to Defendant's house, an object on Defendant's front porch stairs caused him to slip, fall, and be injured. The circuit court dismissed the complaint, concluding that because the complaint did not allege facts demonstrating that Plaintiff was not a trespasser on Defendant's porch, then Plaintiff was a trespasser who was owed no duty of care. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the circuit court plainly erred in making factual determinations based upon assertions in Defendant's motion to dismiss; and (2) the complaint stated a claim, and dismissal was improper. View "Gable v. Gable" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a writ of prohibition directing the circuit court to transfer venue of this third-party medical negligence action from Tucker County to Monongalia County, holding that this cause of action arose in Monongalia County, and therefore venue for the underlying action, as pleaded, lay solely in Monongalia County.Emily Heckler stabbed her stepmother Marion to death two days after she was discharged from Chestnut Ridge Center in Morgantown, where she had received psychiatric treatment. Mark Heckler, Emily's father and the administrator of Marion's estate, brought this claim in Tucker County under W. Va. Code 55-7B-9b of the Medical Professional Liability Act against Petitioners - West Virginia University Hospitals, Inc. and West Virginia University Board of Governors. Heckler filed a motion to dismiss for improper venue or, in the alternative, to transfer venue to Monongalia County. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding (1) under W. Va Code 55-7B-9b, venue is established on where the cause of action arose; and (2) venue is only proper in the county in which the healthcare was rendered with allegedly willful and wanton or reckless disregard of a foreseeable risk of harm to third persons. View "State ex rel. W. Va. University Hospitals, Inc. v. Honorable Nelson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioner's motion to dismiss the first amended complaint filed by Respondent, a minor, by and through his parent and next friend, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, holding that the circuit court erred.In his complaint Respondent alleged that Defendants, officers with the West Virginia State Police, Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety (the WVSP), acted outside the scope of their duties when they severely beat him. Respondent argued that the officers' actions were imputed to Petitioner, the WVSP, pursuant to the doctrine of respondent superior and that the WSVP was negligent and/or reckless in failing to properly train and supervise its officers. After the WSVP unsuccessfully filed a motion to dismiss it appealed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that the circuit court erred by considering matters outside the pleadings and by failing appropriately to consider whether qualified immunity applied. View "West Virginia State Police, Department of Military Affairs v. J.H." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the orders of the circuit court denying Petitioners' respective motions to dismiss the amended complaint filed by the Estate of Cody Lawrence Grove for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, holding that the circuit court erred in several respects.This appeal arose from the suicide of Groves during his incarceration at the Eastern Regional Jail, which was operated by the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility (WVRJCA). The Estate filed a complaint agains the WVRJCA and Joshua David Zombro (collectively, Petitioners), asserting seven causes of action. Petitioners filed a motion to dismiss, which the circuit court denied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred by (1) incorrectly failing to apply the heightened pleading standard applicable to cases implicating qualified immunity; (2) failing to appropriately consider whether qualified immunity applied to shield Petitioners from suit; (3) failing to determine whether the WVRJCA is a state agency; and (4) failing to address punitive damages. View "West Virginia Regional Jail & Correctional Facility Authority v. Estate of Cody Lawrence Grove" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioner's motion for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for a new trial following a jury trial in a personal injury action brought by Respondents, holding that the circuit court did not err.This action arose from an incident where Respondent was severely injured when he was struck and run over by a truck owned and operated by an employee of Petitioner. The jury returned a verdict finding that the employee was acting within the scope of his employment and apportioning one hundred percent of the fault for the incident to the employee. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying Petitioner's motion for judgment as a matter of law or, in the alternative, for a new trial, or for remittitur. View "Roof Service of Bridgeport, Inc. v. Trent" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and dismissed for lack of appellate jurisdiction in part three consolidated appeals from the circuit court's orders relating to the same underlying civil action involving a workplace incident, holding that two of the orders appealed were not final orders.The orders at issue ruled on motions to dismiss filed by several of the parties in the underlying action. The circuit court dismissed claims for deliberate intent and loss of consortium asserted by the plaintiffs and denied several motions to dismiss. These appeals followed. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court's order dismissing the deliberate intent and loss of consortium claims was correct because the claims were time barred; and (2) the orders being appealed in the remaining two cases were not final and appealable. View "Bell v. Nicholson Construction Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Wal-Mart's posttrial motions and the court's judgment against each defendant in this personal injury case according to its apportioned fault, holding that the circuit court did not err.Plaintiff sued Wal-Mart after she sustained serious injuries in a collision with a fleeing shoplifter in a Parkersburg Wal-Mart. Following a jury trial, the jury awarded $16.9 million in damages, apportioning thirty percent of the fault to Wal-Mart and the remainder to the shoplifter. The circuit court denied Wal-Mart's posttrial motions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Wal-Mart owed a duty to Plaintiff to protect her from the shoplifter's criminal conduct, and a reasonable juror could have concluded that the shoplifter's flight was the proximate cause of Plaintiff's injuries; (2) the circuit court did not commit reversible error when it refused to instruct the jury on intervening cause; (3) any error in the circuit court's exclusion of certain allegations in Plaintiff's complaint was harmless; (4) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in awarding Plaintiff prejudgment interest on her past medication expenses; and (5) the circuit court did not err in refusing to enter Plaintiff's proposed judgment order. View "Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P. v. Ankrom" on Justia Law