by
Two recently enacted statutes relating to damages - W. Va. Code 55-7-29 and 55-7E-3 - are remedial and apply in a trial conducted after the effective date of the statutes when the underlying facts in the case occurred prior to that effective date. After he was discharged from employment, Plaintiff filed a complaint against his former employer under the West Virginia Human Rights Act claiming that he was unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of race, national origin and/or ancestry. Defendant removed the case to federal district court on the basis of diversity. The district court then certified questions to the Supreme Court regarding the two statutes at issue. The Supreme Court answered the two certified questions in the affirmative and dismissed the matter from the docket of the court. View "Martinez v. Asplundh Tree Expert Co." on Justia Law

by
Petitioner was convicted of the 2007 murder of his wife and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner’s conviction, holding that the trial court (1) did not err by refusing to dismiss the indictment returned by the grand jury based upon fraud where the majority of the statements challenged by Petitioner were not fraudulent and the one incorrect statement was not so prejudicial as to invalidate the indictment; (2) did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of prior domestic violence, marital discord, and threats made by Petitioner against his wife; (3) did not commit plain error by not instructing the jury on lesser included offenses; and (4) did not err in denying Defendant’ motion for judgment of acquittal where the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support the jury’s verdict. View "State v. Spinks" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Under W. Va. R. Crim. P. 12(f), if a defendant fails to seek to suppress a confession or other inculpatory statement prior to trial as required under W. Va. R. Crim. P. 12(b)(3), such failure constitutes waiver, absent a showing of good cause. Defendant entered a guilty verdict on a two-count indictment for driving under the influence of alcohol. Defendant appealed, arguing that the circuit court erred in admitting his two of his statements to police into evidence at trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under Rule 12(b)(3), Defendant waived his right to a voluntariness hearing regarding the admissibility of his first statement to the police; and (2) the circuit court did not err in admitting the second statement Defendant made to the police because the record revealed nothing to support Defendant’s argument that the circuit court erred in failing to suppress the second statement due to a violation of the prompt presentment rule. View "State v. Simmons" on Justia Law

by
Sue Walters filed a lawsuit against Quicken Loans, Inc., alleging that Quicken Loans violated the “illegal loan” provision of the West Virginia Residential Mortgage Lender, Broker and Servicer Act, W. Va. Code 31-17-8(m)(8), in originating a primary mortgage loan for her. A jury found in favor of Walters and awarded her damages in the amount of $27,000. Walters sued additional defendants - an appraiser and the entity that serviced the loan - with whom she settled. In total, the court offset $59,500 of the $98,000 paid by the settling defendants against the total damages, costs and fees awarded against Quicken Loans. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err in allowing the illegal loan claim to go to the jury, as section 31-17-8(m)(8) applies to a single primary mortgage loan; (2) did not err in ruling that Walters was a prevailing party and thus entitled to an award of fees and costs; (3) erred in offsetting only a portion of the settlement monies received from the settling defendants against the total compensatory damages received by Walters. View "Quicken Loans, Inc. v. Walters" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner appealed an order of the circuit court affirming his magistrate court conviction, after a jury trial, of the offense of domestic assault. In his appeal, Petitioner argued that the magistrate court erred by instructing the jury on the offense of domestic assault when he was charged solely with domestic battery. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) contrary to Petitioner’s contention, domestic assault is a lesser included offense of domestic battery; and (2) the jury instruction on domestic assault was warranted, and the jury was properly instructed on the offense of domestic assault. View "State v. Bland" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

by
Respondents filed an amended complaint joining separate claims of seventy-nine individual plaintiffs, who alleged that they or their family members were injured by exposure to Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) generated at the General James M. Gavin Power Plant and disposed of at the associated Gavin Landfill (collectively, Gavin Landfill). Twelve plaintiffs (the NWDC Plaintiffs) alleged that they suffered injury as a result of take-home exposure to CCR. The Mass Litigation Panel (MLP) denied Petitioners’ motion to dismiss the claims of the NWDC Plaintiffs, concluding that the doctrine of lex loci delicti required the application of Ohio law to the claims of the NWDC Plaintiffs. The court further found that the application of the Ohio Mixed Dust Statute was contrary to the public policy of West Virginia and, applying West Virginia’s public policy exception to the rule of lex loci delicti, declined to apply Ohio law to the NWDC Plaintiffs’ claims. The Supreme Court granted Petitioners’ requested writ of prohibition, holding that the MLP’s application of the public policy exception to the doctrine of lex loci delicti was clearly erroneous in this case, and therefore, under Ohio’s Mixed Dust Statute, Petitioners’ motion to dismiss should have been granted as to the twelve NWDC Plaintiffs. View "State ex rel. American Electric Power Co. v. Hon. Derek C. Swope" on Justia Law

by
Petitioners, nine minors and their parents, individually and as parents, guardians and next friends, filed this action alleging various claims for, inter alia, negligence, fraud, and civil conspiracy arising from Michael Jensen’s known and alleged sexual abuse of the minor plaintiffs. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Unidentified Defendant-1 (UD-1), against whom conspiracy was asserted, and then granted several of Defendants’ motions in limine, which eliminated much of Plaintiffs’ circumstantial evidence in support of their conspiracy claim. The circuit court then granted summary judgment on Plaintiffs’ conspiracy claim in favor of “the Church Defendants” and in favor of Christopher and Sandralee Jensen, Michael’s parents. The Supreme Court reversed the summary judgments and in limine rulings and remanded this action for further proceedings, holding (1) the circuit court erred in excluding Plaintiffs’ circumstantial evidence in support of their conspiracy claim; (2) there were genuine issues of material fact for trial in regard to the conspiracy claim against the Church Defendants and the Jensen Parents; and (3) the circuit court erred in finding that Plaintiffs could not prove the elements of conspiracy against UD-1. View "Jane Doe-1 v. Corp. of President of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

by
In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, waiver of a contractual right to arbitration is a threshold question of enforceability to be determined by a court, not an arbitrator. Respondents commenced an arbitration against Petitioner pursuant to an agreement between the parties alleging breach of contract. Petitioner ultimately filed a motion for a preliminary and permanent injunction to prohibit Respondents from pursuing their claims through arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for entry of an order enjoining Respondents from pursuing further arbitration, holding (1) the question of waiver should have been determined by the circuit court rather than an arbitrator; (2) Respondents were not allowed to reinitiate the arbitration process under the American Arbitration Association after having voluntarily abandoned their claims in arbitration under Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc.; and (3) Respondents waived their right to pursue any future arbitration under the agreement. View "Williams v. Tucker" on Justia Law

by
In an appeal from a divorce action Wife argued that the circuit court abused its discretion with regard to a permanent spousal support award of $4,000 per month and challenged the circuit court’s equitable distribution findings, specifically, classification of certain retirement accounts of Husband as premarital and classification of certain expenditures Husband made as marital expenses. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the circuit court’s order with regard to the equitable distribution findings with the exception of the finding on Husband’s premarital portion of his retirement account, holding the evidence showed $249,685 of that account was premarital; and (2) reversed the award of spousal support, holding that Wife was “harshly short-changed, considering the great disparity of the parties’ income.” View "Mulugeta v. Misailidis" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

by
The volume of telephone calls made by a debt collector to a consumer, absent any other evidence of intent to annoy, abuse, oppress or threaten, is not sufficient to establish a violation of W. Va. Code 46A-2-125(d). Plaintiff-consumer filed suit against Defendant-debt collector. The circuit court ruled that 230 unanswered collection calls Defendant placed with Plaintiff violated section 46A-2-125(d) and awarded Plaintiff damages. The Supreme Court reversed after noting that the telephone calls continued because Plaintiff never answered the calls and never informed Defendant that he contested the debt, holding (1) the volume of unanswered calls in this case did not establish intent in violation of section 46A-2-125(d); and (2) therefore, the circuit court’s ruling is deficient as a matter of law. View "Valentine & Kebartas, Inc. v. Lenahan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Consumer Law