Articles Posted in West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

by
Dorothy Douglas died from severe dehydration not long after leaving Heartland Nursing Home, where she stayed for nineteen days. Plaintiff, individually and on behalf of Douglas’s estate, brought claims of negligence, violations of the West Virginia Nursing Home Act (NHA), and breach of fiduciary duty against Defendants, several corporate entities related to Heartland. After a jury trial, Plaintiff was awarded $11.5 million in compensatory damages and $80 million in punitive damages. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court erred in concluding that the NHA was not governed by the Medical Professional Liability Act (MPLA), and due to a lack of evidence that the pre-suit requirements of the MPLA were met, the claim is dismissed and the accompanying $1.5 million award is vacated; (2) the circuit court erred in recognizing a breach of fiduciary duty claim against a nursing home, and therefore, the claim is dismissed and the accompanying $5 million award is vacated; and (3) the punitive damages award is reduced proportionate to the reduction in compensatory damages. Remanded. View "Manor Care Inc. v. Douglas" on Justia Law

by
Mark Miller sued Justin Golden for criminal conversation, adultery and breach of fiduciary duty to a beneficiary, alleging that his ex-wife engaged in an adulterous affair with Golden that led to the Millers’ divorce. Golden filed a motion for summary judgment, which the circuit court denied. Defendant subsequently filed a petition for a writ of prohibition, arguing that all of Miller’s causes of action were, in essence, claims for alienation of affections, which are statutorily prohibited. The Supreme Court granted the requested writ of prohibition, holding (1) all of Miller’s causes of action were based on claims for alienation of affections; and (2) because all claims for alienation of affections are prohibited by W. Va. Code 56-3-2a, the torts of criminal conversation and adultery are hereby abolished. View "State ex rel. Golden v. Hon. Kaufman" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff was seriously injured in a car accident caused by Defendant. Plaintiff incurred medical bills in excess of $70,000, a portion of which was discounted. Plaintiff sought to recover the entire amount of his medical bills as his necessary and reasonable expenses. Defendant filed a motion in limine asserting that Plaintiff’s damages should be limited to the amounts actually paid by Plaintiff and the amounts paid on Plaintiff’s behalf by any collateral source, such as Plaintiff’s health insurance provider. The circuit court denied Defendant’s motion, reasoning that the discounts or write-offs were a collateral source to Plaintiff. After a trial, the jury awarded Plaintiff compensatory damages of more than $3 million, which included $74,061 for Plaintiff’s past medical expenses, and returned a punitive damage verdict for $300,000. The Supreme Court affirmed the jury’s award of compensatory and punitive damages, holding (1) the trial court did not err in applying the collateral source rule to exclude evidence of Plaintiff’s discounted medical bills; and (2) there was no error underlying the jury’s punitive damage verdict. View "Kenney v. Liston" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed an action individually and on behalf of a class of persons similarly situated against Respondents, Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC) and CAMC Health Education and Research Institute, asserting causes of action for breach of duty of confidentiality, invasion of privacy, and negligence for placing Plaintiffs’ personal and medical information on a specific CAMC electronic database and website that was accessible to the public. The circuit court denied class certification, finding that Plaintiffs did not meet the prerequisites for class certification and that Plaintiffs lacked standing to sue Respondents. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court erred in finding that Petitioners lacked standing and abused its discretion in ruling that Petitioners failed to meet the requirements for class certification. Remanded. View "Tabata v. Charleston Area Med. Ctr." on Justia Law

by
Respondent, a towing service, filed suit against Petitioners, the police department, police chief, and city manager, alleging that Petitioners violated W. Va. Code 24-6-12 by not using the towing rotation list adopted by the county commission. Petitioners sought to dismiss the case on statutory immunity grounds. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss without addressing the issue of immunity. Petitioners requested a writ of prohibition, arguing that they were immune from prosecution based on the West Virginia Governmental Tort Claims and Insurance Reform Act. The Supreme Court granted the requested writ of prohibition, holding that Petitioners were entitled to legislative immunity in this case. View "State ex rel. City of Bridgeport v. Judge Marks" on Justia Law

by
In 2012, nineteen plaintiff families filed a single complaint alleging products liability and negligence claims against Defendants. In 2013, six plaintiff families filed a single complaint also alleging products liability and negligence claims against Defendants. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court referred Plaintiffs as two civil actions to the Mass Litigation Panel. The Panel entered an order that transformed the two civil actions into twenty-five separate actions. Plaintiffs sought a writ of prohibition to preclude enforcement of the order on the grounds that the Panel did not have the authority to alter their status as two civil actions. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding that the Panel did not have the authority to separate the cases. View "State ex rel. J.C. v. Judge Mazzone" on Justia Law

by
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) filed a complaint against Consol Energy, Inc. and Consolidation Coal Company (collectively, Consol) alleging West Virginia common law tort claims and seeking damages for massive losses of fish and aquatic life allegedly caused by Consol’s discharges of waste water into a stream that flows between West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The circuit court dismissed the complaint, concluding that PFBC was only authorized to bring civil suits for damages as a result of violations of Pennsylvania law, and PFBC had no authority to bring a cause of action under West Virginia common law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that PFBC had sufficient interest in the fish and aquatic life under its control to give it standing to file suit in West Virginia and bring West Virginia common law tort claims against Consol to seek recovery of damages as a result of the fish kill. View "Commonwealth of Pa. v. Consol Energy, Inc." on Justia Law

by
This case had its origins in a property damage action brought by Jason and Gina Corrick against B&B Transit, Inc. B&B Transit filed a notice and coverage claim with its insurer, Montpelier US Insurance Company. Montpelier eventually settled the case against B&B Transit. While the Corricks’ complaint was still pending, Respondents, including B&B Transit, filed a first-party bad faith claim against Petitioners, including Montpelier and its national coverage counsel, Charlston, Revich & Wollitz (“CRW”). Respondents subsequently served discovery requests on Petitioners. After CRW opposed disclosure of certain requested documents, Respondents filed a motion to compel disclosure of the documents. The circuit court entered an order requiring CRW to disclose certain documents. Petitioners sought a writ of prohibition to prevent enforcement of the circuit court’s discovery order. The Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition as moulded, concluding that part of the circuit court’s order permitting discovery of documents sought by Respondents was prohibited from enforcement because the documents were protected under the attorney-client privilege. View "State ex rel. Montpelier US Ins. Co. v. Hon. Bloom" on Justia Law

by
Jeffrey Boyd was driving a City of Parkersburg fire truck through an intersection with his lights and sirens activated during a red light when Michael Gray’s vehicle proceeded into the intersection. The fire truck struck Petitioner’s vehicle in the rear passenger side. Gray filed an action against the City and Boyd (together, Respondents), alleging negligent operation of the fire truck by Boyd. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Respondents. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed, rendering the circuit court’s entry of summary judgment erroneous. View "Gray v. Boyd" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority (WVRJCFA), alleging that while housed at the Southern Regional Jail, she was raped by a correctional officer. The WVRJCFA moved for summary judgment on the basis of qualified immunity. The circuit court denied summary judgment, finding (1) disputed issues of material fact precluded a determination as to whether the WVRJCFA was vicariously liable for the alleged sexual assaults committed by the correctional officer; and (2) Plaintiff’s claims of negligent supervision, training, and retention did not encompass discretionary decisions in the administration of fundamental government policy. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the WVRJCFA was entitled to qualified immunity, and therefore, the circuit court erred in failing to grant summary judgment to the WVRJCFA. View "W. Va. Reg'l Jail & Corr. Facility Auth. v. A.B." on Justia Law