Justia West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

By
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

By
Petitioner was convicted of one count of embezzlement. Petitioner appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred by (1) not granting his motions for judgment of acquittal because the State failed to present sufficient evidence to support his conviction, and (2) not granting his motion for a mistrial after the prosecuting attorney made improper remarks during closing arguments. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the State presented sufficient evidence to support Petitioner’s conviction and therefore did not err by denying Petitioner’s motions for judgment of acquittal; and (2) the prosecutor’s remarks were not clearly prejudicial and did not result in manifest injustice, and therefore, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion by denying Petitioner’s motion for a mistrial. View "State v. Berry" on Justia Law
By
Posted in:
Updated:

By
Plaintiff, as administratrix of the estate of her late husband, filed a complaint against Monroe County alleging negligence in performing statutory duties, thereby allowing vicious dogs to remain at large, and wrongful death. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the County based upon the court’s conclusion that the evidence was insufficient to establish a disputed issue of material fact in relation to the special relationship exception to the public duty doctrine. The court then entered, sua sponte, an order summarily dismissing all of Plaintiff’s remaining claims against the County. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because there was disputed evidence on each of the factors required to establish the special relationship exception to the public duty doctrine, the the circuit court erred in granting summary judgment to the County; and (2) because the summary judgment order upon which the dismissal order was apparently based was dismissed, likewise, the circuit court’s dismissal order is vacated. View "Bowden v. Monroe County Commission" on Justia Law

By
After the West Virginia Department of Education (DOE) terminated Plaintiff’s employment, Plaintiff filed a complaint containing a constitutional tort claim and a claim for wrongful termination. Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that the DOE leaked a letter it received from her previous government employer revealing that she was under investigation for misallocating public funds for personal use and that the leak of this letter violated her constitutionally-protected liberty interest. The circuit court denied the DOE’s motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiff failed to outline a liberty interest violation sufficient to overcome the DOE’s qualified immunity because the truth of the allegedly leaked letter was not disputed; and (2) therefore, the DOE’s qualified immunity barred Plaintiff’s claims. View "West Virginia Department of Education v. McGraw" on Justia Law

By
The Supreme Court held that the third offense provision contained in W. Va. Code 61-8-5(b) is ambiguous. Therefore, the rule of lenity applies, requiring the court to strictly construe the statute against the State and in favor of Defendant, who was charged with third offense of soliciting an act of prostitution in violation of section 61-8-5(b). The circuit court rejected Defendant’s argument that the third offense provision does not apply to an alleged prostitute but, rather, applies only to third parties who derive a financial benefit from the earnings of a prostitute. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the third or subsequent felony offense provision only applies to third parties who financially benefit from the earnings of a prostitute. Therefore, the circuit court erred by denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss the indictment. View "State v. Fuller" on Justia Law
By
Posted in:
Updated:

By
The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s ruling that Petitioner was not a “consumer” within the applicable definitions of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act. The circuit court granted summary judgment to Respondent, a debt collector, concluding that Petitioner lacked standing to seek relief under the Act because Petitioner did not have any specific debt in connection with the calls that Respondent made to her land line phone. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Petitioner clearly did not come within the definition of “consumer” set forth in the Act, and (2) therefore, the circuit court correctly ruled that Petitioner lacked standing to pursue a claim under the Act. View "Young v. EOSCCA" on Justia Law
By
Posted in:
Updated:

By
The State appealed the circuit court’s order dismissing two counts of an indictment returned against Defendant charging Defendant with criminal civil rights violations under W. Va. Code 61-6-21(b), arguing that the circuit court erred in determining that the word “sex” in section 61-6-21(b) could not be expanded to include “sexual orientation.” The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the word “sex” in section 61-6-21(b) is unambiguous and does not include “sexual orientation”; and (2) this Court’s exercise of discretion under W. Va. R. App. P. 17 in refusing to docket a certified question presented to this Court under W. Va. Code 58-5-2 is neither an express nor an implicit ruling on the merits of the legal issue presented therein, and thereafter, the circuit court may take such action and make such rulings in the matter as it deems appropriate. View "State v. Butler" on Justia Law
By
Posted in:
Updated:

By
The Supreme Court ruled that the revocation of the driver’s license of Respondent was improper, thus rejecting the arguments of the West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on appeal. The Court affirmed the order of the circuit court, which reversed the decision of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) that had affirmed the DMV’s revocation of Respondent’s driver’s license. The Court held that the circuit court did not err in concluding that the OAH’s delay in issuing its decision was prejudicial to Respondent and declined to address the merits of DMV’s two remaining assignments of error. View "Reed v. Staffileno" on Justia Law

By
Leslie Meadows filed a complaint against William Erps claiming that Erps owed he money from several real estate projects that she shared with him. For purposes of appeal, Meadows’s claims involved two of those transactions with Erps: (1) claims related to the purchase of, improvements to, and sale of the Sutphin property; and (2) claims related to the financing for the Twiford apartments. The circuit court awarded judgment to Meadows in the amount of $18,675 with respect to the Sutphin property and $67,000 for the Twiford apartments, for a total sum of $85,675. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the circuit court’s award of judgment of $18,675 to Meadows as an abuse of discretion; and (2) the circuit court’s award of $67,000 was an abuse of discretion, and the circuit court’s award of judgment on the Twiford apartments is hereby reduced to $30,000. Remanded with directions to vacate the judgment for Meadows on the Sutphin property and to enter judgment for Meadows on the Twiford apartments in the amount of $30,000. View "Erps v. Meadows" on Justia Law

By
Plaintiff owned a building insured by State Auto Property and Casualty Insurance Company that was rendered a total loss by fire. State Farm reduced the adjusted policy limit for the building by fifteen percent under the policy’s vacancy provision. State Farm sent Plaintiff a check for debris removal, but no coverage was extended for pollutant removal. Plaintiff filed a declaratory judgment action, alleging that the State Farm improperly reduced the full policy limit for building coverage by fifteen percent and that he was entitled to the costs he incurred for the removal and testing of asbestos under the policy’s pollutant cleanup and removal coverage. The circuit court entered an order certifying two questions to the Supreme Court. The Court answered (1) an insured may reduce a fire insurance policy’s limit of coverage for total loss by fire for the insured premises by fifteen percent pursuant to a vacancy provision in the policy; and (2) a fire insurance policy that includes a pollutant clean up and removal provision does provide provide coverage in excess of the debris removal coverage afforded by the policy for the removal of asbestos contained in a fire-damaged or destroyed structure. View "Ashraf v. State Auto Property & Casualty Insurance Co." on Justia Law
By
Posted in:
Updated: