Justia West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court denying Defendant's motion to dismiss and remanded this case to the circuit court for the entry of an order dismissing Plaintiff's claims against Defendant, holding that the circuit court exceeded its jurisdiction by failing to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against Defendant. Plaintiff was injured while working for Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc. and was subsequently terminated. Defendant, Old Dominion's third-party claims administrator, denied Plaintiff's claim for workers' compensation benefits on behalf of Old Dominion. Plaintiff sued Defendant. Defendant moved to dismiss Plaintiff's claims, but the circuit court judge denied the motion. The Supreme Court granted Defendant's motion for a writ of prohibition, holding that the circuit court exceeded its legitimate powers when it refused to dismiss Plaintiff's claims against Defendant. View "State ex rel. Gallagher Bassett Services v. Honorable Carrie Webster" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court refusing Petitioners' petition for injunctive relief and determining that an easement did not exist across certain property, holding that Petitioners failed to establish either a prescriptive easement or an implied easement. In this dispute among five adult siblings, Petitioners, four siblings, filed a petition for injunctive relief against the fifth sibling, who owned the property at issue, claiming that an easement was necessary for them to access their property. The circuit court refused the injunction, concluding (1) Petitioners' use of the property was permissive so that Petitioners failed to prove adverse use required for a prescriptive easement; and (2) Petitioners failed to establish an implied easement because Petitioners offered no credible evidence of strict or reasonable necessity of prior use. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the superior court's judgment. View "Cantrell v. Cantrell" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the circuit court denying Petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that the circuit court erred in finding that W.Va. Code 61-11-23(b) of the Juvenile Sentencing Reform Act did not apply retroactively to Petitioner's sentence. Petitioner, who was sixteen years old at the time he committed the offenses, was convicted of sexual assault in the first degree and sexual abuse by a parent, guardian, custodian, or person in a position of trust. The circuit court sentenced Petitioner to an aggregate sentence of thirty-five to seventy-five years of incarceration and fifty years of supervised release. The court further required Petitioner to register as a sexual offender for his lifetime. After the legislature enacted the Act, Petitioner brought this habeas corpus proceeding. The circuit court denied relief. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court erred in concluding that the legislature did not intend for section 61-11-23(b) to be applied retroactively; (2) Petitioner failed to establish that the State provided false and perjured testimony; and (3) Petitioner's sentence was not disproportionate. View "Christopher J. v. Ames" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioner's motion for a new trial and renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law, holding that the verdict in this case should be upheld. Petitioner failed a medial professional liability action against Respondents alleging that Respondents were negligent and breached the applicable standards of care by failing to timely deliver an infant, thereby resulting in the infant's death. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Respondents, and the circuit court denied both of Petitioner's post-trial motions. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding, among other things, that, contrary to Petitioner's arguments on appeal, the evidence at trial did not constitute a clear case of medical negligence, and the verdict was not against the weight of the evidence. View "Smith v. Clark" on Justia Law

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In this ongoing Marcellus shale litigation arising that arose from claims asserted by Plaintiffs - surface owners of several tracts of land - the Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Mass Litigation Panel (MLP) granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants - the leaseholder of the gas and oil estates and the company who was conducting the drilling - holding that there were no genuine issues of material fact precluding summary judgment. Plaintiffs alleged that their use and enjoyment of their land was being improperly and substantially burdened by horizontal wells being used to develop the Marcellus shale underlying their properties even where the wells were not physically located on Plaintiffs' properties. In granting summary judgment for Defendants the MLP concluded that the effects on the surface owners resulting from the horizontal drilling were within the implied rights to use the surface granted by virtue of the relevant severance deeds and did not impose a substantial burden on the surface owners. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiffs failed to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the effects on their surface estates were reasonably necessary to develop the mineral estate or whether they were being substantially burdened by Defendants' activities. View "Andrews v. Antero Resources Corp." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Appellant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus in which Appellant asserted ineffective assistance of counsel, holding that there were no grounds upon which to find that Appellant's trial counsel was ineffective. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of murder in the first degree for fatally shooting his wife. Defendant was sentenced to life with mercy. After the circuit court denied Defendant's petition for a writ of habeas corpus Defendant appealed, raising eight separate instances of ineffective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in denying Appellant's petition seeking a writ of habeas corpus. View "Coleman v. Binion" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the circuit court denying Petitioner's petition for writ of habeas corpus asserting ineffective assistance of counsel, holding that there were no grounds upon which to find Petitioner's counsel was ineffective. After a jury trial, Petitioner was convicted of murder in the first degree. Petitioner's habeas petition asserted numerous grounds to support his claims of ineffective assistance of both trial and appellate counsel. After an omnibus hearing, the circuit court denied the petition. Petitioner appealed, raising eight separate instances of ineffective assistance of counsel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioner received effective assistance of counsel. View "Coleman v. Binion" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's order granting summary judgment to LML Properties, LLC on Hanover Resources, LLC's complaint alleging breach of contract against LML for enforcement of $4.7 million in mechanic's liens on the basis that the mechanic's liens were invalid under West Virginia law, holding that the mechanic's liens at issue were invalid. The liens in this case were filed under W. Va. Code 38-2-31 and -32 by Hanover, a provider of coal mining services, against the fee interest of a mineral estate partially owned by LML. The circuit court concluded that the liens were invalid and granted summary judgment to LML. The Supreme Court affirmed after considering the undisputed facts in the form of stipulations by the parties regarding their contractual responsibilities along with the framework in the mechanic's lien statutes and relevant case law, holding that the circuit court did not err in granting LML's motion for summary judgment. View "Hanover Resources, LLC v. LML Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court answered a question certified to it by the circuit court after reformulating the question, holding that a jury may consider images of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct contained in the temporary Internet cache files on a defendant's computer as evidence of a violation of W.Va. Code 61-8C-3(a). Respondent was charged with one count of violating section 61-8C-3. The circuit court certified a question to the Supreme Court. The Court reformulated the question and answered in the affirmative, holding (1) images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct found in temporary Internet cache files on a defendant's computer are contraband in a prosecution for a violation of section 61-8C-3(a) on a theory of constructive possession if the State's evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew of the cached images and exercised dominion and control over them; and (2) if the State cannot prove that the defendant knew of the cached images and exercised dominion and control over them, the images are still circumstantial evidence the State may use to prove that the defendant violated section 61-8C-3(a). View "State v. Beck" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court reversing the order of the Executive Director of the Governor's Committee on Crime, Delinquency, and Corrections (Petitioner) decertifying Respondent as a law enforcement officer in the State of West Virginia, holding that the circuit court applied the incorrect statutory provisions to this matter and the proceedings below. On appeal, Petitioner argued that the circuit court applied the incorrect statutes to define the scope of the Law Enforcement Professional Standards Subcommittee's authority and incorrectly applied the due process protections in employment disputes to a proceeding governing law enforcement professional certification. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the circuit court applied the incorrect statutory provisions, and therefore, the court also erred in concluding that the civil service hearing proceedings must precede decertification proceedings. View "Thorton v. Ward" on Justia Law