Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia

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Workers’ compensation dependents’ death benefits awarded under West Virginia law are payable as long as the benefits awarded under the laws of another state for the same injury remain suspended due to a related third-party settlement. Petitioner received awards of dependents’ benefits in both Rhode Island and West Virginia. The West Virginia award was subject to W. Va. Code 23-2-1c(d), which provides for a credit of workers’ compensation benefits “awarded or recovered” under laws of another state. No benefits were paid out in connection to the West Virginia award because the weekly benefits paid in relation to the Rhode Island claim were greater than, and credited against, the West Virginia benefits awarded. After Petitioner reached a confidential settlement with defendants in a civil action she filed in relation to the decedent’s death her Rhode Island dependents’ benefits were suspended. Petitioner then requested payment of West Virginia dependents’ benefits. Petitioner’s request was denied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the dependents’ benefits awarded under Rhode Island law were suspended, Petitioner was entitled to receive payments of dependents’ benefits awarded to her under West Virginia law. View "Moran v. Rosciti Construction Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court upheld the Workers’ Compensation Board of Review’s finding that, based on the preponderance of the evidence, Jimmie Lemon’s injury was work related. Jimmie Lemon filed a workers’ compensation claim claiming that his low back injury occurred in the course of and resulting from his employment with Arch Coal, Inc. The Office of Judges found the claim compensable and designated Lemon’s compensable condition as a herniated disc. The Board of Review affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case with directions that the claim be rejected, concluding that Lemon’s injury was not work-related. Upon reconsideration, the Supreme Court upheld the prior administrative finding that Lemon’s injury was work-related. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Review and remanded with directions to reinstate the decisions of the Office of judges and the Board of Review that Lemon’s claim was compensable. View "Arch Coal, Inc. v. Lemon" on Justia Law

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A durable power of attorney (DPOA) provided an adult daughter with the authority to enter into an arbitration agreement with a nursing home on her mother’s behalf. Lena Nelson executed a DPOA that named her son as her attorney-in-fact. The DPOA stated that if her son could not serve as such, Nelson’s daughter, Kimberly Shanklin, should be Nelson’s attorney-in-fact. Nelson was later transferred to Hillcrest Nursing Home. Shanklin signed all of the admission documents, including an arbitration agreement. Approximately one month after leaving the nursing home, Nelson died. Shanklin, on behalf of her mother’s estate, filed this suit against Hillcrest. Hillcrest, in response, filed a motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. Shanklin argued that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because she did not have the actual authority to enter into the agreement on Nelson’s behalf because she was the “alternate” DPOA. The circuit court agreed and denied the motion to dismiss and to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Shanklin had the authority to enter into the arbitration agreement with Hillcrest; and (2) under the plain language of W.Va. Code 39B-1-119(c), Hillcrest was permitted to rely on Shanklin’s authority as Nelson’s DPOA when Shanklin signed the arbitration agreement on Nelson’s behalf. View "AMFM, LLC v. Shanklin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Mass Litigation Panel through which summary judgment was granted in favor of Defendants, Pfizer, Inc., Roerig, a division of Pfizer, Inc., and Greenstone, LLC (collectively, Pfizer) on Plaintiffs’ claims that Pfizer negligently failed adequately to warn them of the risk of birth defects through the ingestion of Zoloft, a prescription medication, during pregnancy. The Court held (1) this was a case where expert testimony was necessary, and therefore, the Panel did not erroneously based its decision on the absence of expert testimony to support Plaintiffs’ claims that Pfizer failed adequately to warn women of childbearing age of the risks of Zoloft; (2) Petitioners could not sustain their evidentiary burden with Pfizer’s witnesses; and (3) there was no unfairness in requiring Plaintiffs to meet their burden of proof with expert testimony under the circumstances of this case. View "J.C. v. Pfizer, Inc." on Justia Law

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There is no cause of action in West Virginia for failure to warn and negligent misrepresentation against a branded drug manufacturer when the drug ingested was produced by a generic manufacturer. Petitioners, Kimmy and Larry McNair, filed an action against Respondent, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, alleging that Kimmy developed acute respiratory distress after ingestion the generic drug levofloxacin that was manufactured by Dr. Reddy’s Laboraties Limited. Janssen originally trademarked and sold levofloxacin under the brand Levaquin and produced the warnings on the label that accompanied the distribution of the drug, which were subsequently used by generic manufacturers of levofloxacin. The McNairs alleged that Janssen had exclusive control of the content of the warning for both the brand-name and generic forms of the drug and was therefore liable for their alleged injuries. The federal district court granted summary judgment to Janssen, finding that because Janssen did not manufacture the product ingested by Kimmy, there was no basis on which to hold Janssen liable. On appeal, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals certified to the Supreme Court a question of law. In answering as set forth above, the Supreme Court declined to expand its products liability law. View "McNair v. Johnson & Johnson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court dismissing Plaintiff’s complaint against Defendants, the Town of Grantsville and its police chief, holding that the claims set forth in the complaint were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. After the Office of Administrative Hearsing reversed the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles’ revocation of Plaintiff’s driving privileges, Plaintiff brought this complaint alleging malicious prosecution, outrageous conduct, intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation against the police chief and alleging the negligent employment of the police chief against the town. The circuit court dismissed the complaint as barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The Supreme Court affirmed. View "Richards v. Walker" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying the motion for a new trial Defendants sought after an adverse jury verdict in favor of Plaintiff in this personal injury action. After sustaining injuries in a collision, Plaintiff filed this complaint. The jury found that Defendants were at fault when their police vehicle rear-ended Plaintiff’s vehicle while he was driving. On appeal, Defendants challenged the circuit court’s denial of their motion for new trial or remittitur. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in (1) instructing the jury regarding yielding right-of-way to an emergency vehicle and the standard of care for operating an emergency vehicle; (2) failing to provide Defendants with copies of the juror questionnaires prior to jury voir dire; (3) limiting cross-examination of a witness; and (4) awarding general and special damages. Lastly, Defendants failed to preserve for appellate review their claim that during closing argument Plaintiff’s counsel made a “golden rule” argument in violation of a pretrial ruling by the circuit court. View "Miller v. Allman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Defendant’s post-trial motions following an adverse jury verdict in this “deliberate intention” action. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs in this personal injury action, finding that Defendant acted with “deliberate intent.” Defendant filed a renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law and, alternatively, a motion for a new trial and a motion to alter or amend the judgment. The trial court denied the motions. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to satisfy all of the statutory requirements for a “deliberate intention” claim. View "FirstEnergy Generation, LLC v. Muto" on Justia Law

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In this wrongful death action, the Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ (DHHR) motion for summary judgment, in which DHHR argued that it was entitled to qualified immunity. The circuit court determined that DHHR was not entitled to qualified immunity because it was alleged that DHHR had violated a clearly established statutory or constitutional law. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the complained-of conduct involved discretionary functions and that Plaintiff failed to demonstrate a violation of a clearly established statutory or constitutional law, and therefore, the circuit court should have granted summary judgment for DHHR on the basis of qualified immunity. View "Crouch v. Gillespie" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied Garland DeCourcy’s petition for writ of prohibition seeking to prohibit the circuit court from proceeding in this action brought by William Williams to recover a computer, telephone system, and keys to a vehicle from DeCourcy. After a bench trial in magistrate court, DeCourcy was ordered to return certain property to Williams. DeCourcy appealed and filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that Williams could not meet his burden of proof because the evidence should be limited to the evidence presented to the magistrate court. The circuit court ruled that a trial de novo authorized it to consider additional evidence, including witness testimony not presented in magistrate court. DeCourcy then filed this petition for writ of prohibition. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding (1) an appeal of a civil action tried before a magistrate without a jury under W. Va. Code 50-5-12(b) shall be a trial de novo, meaning a new trial in which the parties may present new evidence including witness testimony not presented in magistrate court; and (2) the circuit court did not err in its determination that new evidence, including witness testimony, was proper in this appeal from magistrate court. View "State ex rel. DeCourcy v. Honorable Jennifer P. Dent" on Justia Law