Justia West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court applying this Court's decision in State ex rel. AMFM, LLC v. King, 740 S.E.2d 66 (W. Va. 2013), to conclude that Respondent lacked authority to bind her mother to an arbitration agreement, holding that there was no error.Respondent admitted her mother to The Villages at Greystone, an assisted living residence, when Respondent was not her mother's attorney-in-fact. In her capacity as her mother's medical surrogate Respondent completed on her mother's behalf a residency agreement and an arbitration agreement. Respondent later sued Petitioners, alleging that her mother had suffered injuries while a resident of Greystone due to Petitioners' negligence. Petitioners filed a motion to arbitrate the claim, but the circuit court denied the motion, concluding that no valid arbitration agreement existed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Petitioners failed to establish a valid agreement to arbitrate on the facts of this case. View "Beckley Health Partners, Ltd. v. Hoover" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the written dispositional orders entered by the circuit court terminating Mother's parental rights to her two children, holding that the dispositional orders failed to include findings of fact and conclusions of law necessary to support the termination of parental rights.The Department of Health and Human Resources filed a motion alleging that the termination of Mother's parental rights was required by W. Va. Code 49-4-605(a)(1) because the children had been in foster care for more than fifteen of the most recent twenty-two months. The Supreme Court vacated the orders below and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the circuit court (1) erroneously entered written dispositional orders that contained none of the findings required by W. Va. Code 49-4-604(c)(6) for termination of parental rights; and (2) lacked subject matter jurisdiction to terminate Mother's parental rights. View "In re C.S." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court answered certified questions seeking to clarify whether, in payment of royalties under an oil and gas lease, the lessor may be required to bear a portion of the post-production costs incurred in rendering the oil and gas marketable.Specifically, the district court asked whether Estate of Tawyne v. Columbia Natural Resources, LLC, 633 S.E.2d 22 (W. Va. 2006) is still good law in West Virginia and then asked the Supreme Court to expound upon its holding in Tawney. The Supreme Court answered (1) Tawney is still good law; and (2) this Court defines to answer the reformulated question of what level of specificity Tawney requires of an oil and gas lease to permit the deduction of post-production costs from a lessor's royalty payments. View "SWN Production Co., LLC v. Kellam" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court denying Petitioners' motion to intervene in the underlying child abuse and neglect proceedings and reunifying the child with Mother, holding that there was no error.Petitioners, the foster parents of the two children in this case, moved to intervene in the underlying proceedings, but the circuit court denied intervention. The court then ordered that the child be reunified with Mother. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court properly denied Petitioners' motion to intervene in the underlying child abuse and neglect proceedings. View "In re H.W." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law
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The Supreme Court granted Petitioner's request for a writ of prohibition as moulded in this case involving a business dispute rooted in a contract between Petitioner, a manufacturer of hemp-derived vaping cartridges, and Respondent, its distributor, holding that Petitioner was entitled to the writ.Respondent filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Logan County even though the parties' contract required that any lawsuit arising out of the breach of their agreement be filed in the Circuit Court of Hamilton County, Indiana. The circuit court denied Petitioner's motion to dismiss the complaint based on the forum-select clause. The Supreme Court remanded the case after granting a writ of prohibition, holding that the circuit court incorrectly evaluated the enforceability of the forum-selection clause. View "State ex rel., 3C LLC v. Honorable Eric H. O'Briant" on Justia Law

Posted in: Contracts
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's professional malpractice claim brought under the West Virginia Medical Professional Liability Act (MPLA), holding that the circuit court did not err in dismissing the claim with prejudice.Plaintiff sent to Defendant a notice of claim and certificate of merit consistent with the pre-suit notice requirements of the MPLA. Defendant neither requested pre-suit mediation nor declined it. Long after the expiration of the statute of limitations and any statutory tolling periods, Plaintiff received a response letter from Defendant explicitly declining pre-suit mediation. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed her claim. The circuit court dismissed the claim on the grounds that the MPLA does not permit an indefinite tolling of the statute of limitations to facilitate pre-suit mediation and there was no evidence of any affirmative conduct by Defendant that would have induced Plaintiff to delay filing her claim so as to equitably toll the statute of limitations. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that there was no error in the circuit court's decision. View "Adkins v. Clark" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Petitioner's conviction of one count of death of a child by a parent, custodian, or guardian by child abuse but reversed the determinate sentence of one hundred years imposed by the circuit court and remanded the matter for resentencing, holding that the circuit court erred in part.On appeal, Petitioner challenged the circuit court's ruling that W. Va. Code 61-8D-2a(c) permits the imposition of a determinate sentence within a range of fifteen years to life. The Supreme Court reversed Petitioner's sentence, holding that the 2017 amendment to the statute established an indeterminate sentence. The Court remanded the case for the circuit court to impose an indeterminate sentence as statutorily required. View "State v. Tusing" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the circuit court sentencing Defendant to life in prison without mercy for his first-degree murder conviction and terms of imprisonment for his remaining convictions, holding that the circuit court committed reversible error during Defendant's jury trial.On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court reversibly erred when it dismissed a member of the jury after deliberations began and replaced that juror with an alternate who had been discharged from the case rather than granting a mistrial. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed Defendant's conviction and the sentencing orders, holding that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied Defendant's motion for a mistrial. View "State v. Sheffield" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law
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The Supreme Court reversed the ruling of the circuit court granting partial summary judgment to Defendants in this real property dispute, holding that genuine issues of material fact existed, precluding summary judgment.Plaintiffs brought this action against Defendants, claiming that they had a legal right to use a roadway that traversed land owned by Defendants. To support their claim, Plaintiffs relied on a 1905 map. The circuit court determined that it could not consider the map because it was not a "public record" and then granted partial summary judgment for Plaintiffs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court abused its discretion in refusing to admit or consider the 1905 map and that remand was required. View "Gregory v. Long" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the sentencing order of the circuit court in this criminal case, holding that Defendant's right to be present at the imposition of his sentence was violated and that this violation was not harmless error.Defendant pled guilty to three counts of failure to register as a sex offender and one count of fleeing from an officer. During the sentencing hearing, Defendant and his counsel participated by video conference. On appeal, Defendant argued that the circuit court impermissibly failed to allow him to be physically present for his sentencing hearing, in violation of W. Va. R. Crim. P. 62-3-2, W. Va. R. Crim. P. 43 and both the West Virginia and United States Constitutions. The Supreme Court vacated the sentencing order, holding (1) Defendant's right to be present at the imposition of his sentence was violated; and (2) under the circumstances of this case, the error was not harmless. View "State v. Byers" on Justia Law